Kansas job growth — or lack of it

The lack of job growth in Kansas should be in the news, as the figures are quite startling and reveal a stagnant Kansas economy when compared to nearby states. It’s also the one-year anniversary of the increase in the state-wide sales tax of one cent per dollar.

But some want to stick their heads in the sand when it comes to the harmful effect of tax increases and the dismal performance of the Kansas economy. An example is from yesterday, when Wichita Eagle opinion page chief Phillip Brownlee editorialized that “Apparently last year’s sales-tax increase didn’t wreck the Kansas economy, as some predicted.”

Perhaps Brownlee hasn’t been listening to what others have said. The most startling fact, and one that should be a wake-up call to anyone who cares about the future of Kansas, is the uncovering by the Kansas Policy Institute that Kansas is the only state to have a loss in private sector jobs over the past year.

All the spending on schools, highways, and other government programs that are supposed to spur our economy to greatness have lead to this: last place. The only state with private-sector job loss. We couldn’t have done worse.

Here are some charts based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that illustrate. First, here’s the trend in Kansas employment, using January 2009 as the base. Other months are indexed from that number. The chart separately shows the trends in government and private sector employment.

The effect of the recession on private sector employment has been severe, while government employment has fared much better. But government employees don’t create the wealth necessary to create prosperity for Kansans. Instead, the government jobs are a burden to our economy as they drain resources from the productive private sector.

Of particular interest is the relative flatness of the curve over the past year. Around that time we’re told the recovery was taking place — it was on June 17, 2010 that President Barack Obama announced the “Summer of Recovery.” But Kansas private sector employment has remained largely unchanged since then.

Kansas employment trendsKansas employment trends, government and private sector

Comparing Kansas private sector employment to other states near Kansas produces a grimmer picture. All these states suffered from the recession, but many of these states did not suffer job losses as large as Kansas (on a relative basis).

Then about a year ago, the trend in most of these states started to improve. But not Kansas.

Kansas private sector employment trendsKansas private sector employment trends, compared to other states

Even if one believes that government jobs create prosperity, Kansas has lagged here, too. It should be noted that Kansas has a very large number of government employees compared to its population. Kansas has 717.4 public employees per 10,000 population, which is number 48 in the nation. Only two states have more government employees, compared to population, than Kansas.

Starting from such a high level of government employment may explain the following chart, where Kansas, when compared to neighboring states, has lagged behind in the change in the number of government jobs.

Kansas government sector employment trends, compared to other statesKansas government sector employment trends, compared to other states

Last year supporters of the increase in the sales tax made the case that more government revenue was necessary to avoid decreases in government employment. Judging by the record since then, the cost of the sales tax has been a stagnant Kansas private sector economy at the same time our neighbors are starting to grow employment. This is a policy that must be reversed. We know how to do this — the Rich States, Poor States: The ALEC-Laffer Economic Competitiveness Index report has evidence of polices that work to produce economic growth and those that don’t work. We simply need the will to implement them.


One thought on “Kansas job growth — or lack of it”

  1. A veteran friend of mine told me that Kansas was the 6th worst state for veterans of our recent wars in the middle east to find a job once they got out of the military. That is surprising since the KS unemployment rate is well below the US average and under 7 percent. Veteran unemployment in KS according to my friends date was over 15%.

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