The unemployment rate in Kansas dropped from 6.2 percent to 5.9 percent in September. Before figuring who to credit for this, we ought to take a look at the underlying trends.
— Sam Brownback (@govsambrownback) October 19, 2012
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback was quick to take credit, issuing the tweet “KS unemployment rate dropped to 5.9% in Sept. lowest rate since Dec. ’08.”
— Jason Perkey (@jasonperkey) October 19, 2012
Jason Perkey, who is Executive Director of the Kansas Democratic Party, wanted to give the credit to President Barack Obama, as can be seen in his tweet.
Looking at the numbers behind the unemployment number, however, reveals something that I don’t think either party wants credit for: a shrinking labor force.
Todd Davidson of Kansas Policy Institute took a close look at the numbers that go into forming the unemployment rate, and here’s what he found: “The drop did not come from higher employment. 7,819 fewer Kansans were employed in September 2012 than in September 2011. The unemployment rate is lower because over 20,000 Kansans dropped out of the labor force over the last year.” More details are at Taking a Closer Look at the September Unemployment Rate.
Graphically, here’s what the situation looks like. The number of people in the Kansas labor force has been declining. When the number of employed takes a slight uptick, the unemployment rate can decline by a fairly large amount. But it’s not part of an encouraging trend.