For the Wichita metropolitan area in December 2020, the number of unemployed persons is up, the unemployment rate is up, and the number of people working is down when compared to the same month one year ago. The recent trend, however, is mixed.
Data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the United States Department of Labor, shows the effects of the response to the pandemic in the Wichita Metropolitan Statistical Area for December 2020.
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Total nonfarm employment fell from 308,800 in December 2019 to 295,200 in December 2020, a loss of 13,600 jobs (4.4 percent). (This data is not seasonally adjusted, so month-to-month comparisons are not valid.) For the same period, employment in the nation fell by 6.0 percent. The unemployment rate in December 2020 was 4.3 percent, up from 3.2 percent the same month one year prior.
Considering seasonally adjusted data from the household survey, the labor force fell by 6,743 persons (2.1 percent) in December 2020 from November 2020, the number of unemployed persons fell by 7,594 (33.8 percent), and the unemployment rate was 4.7 percent, down from 7.0 percent in November. The number of employed persons not working on farms rose to 300,882 in December from 300,031 the prior month, an increase of 851 persons (0.3 percent).
While the unemployment rate fell in December, the primary cause was the large drop in the labor force rather than robust job growth. This was also the trend in Kansas for December.
The following chart of the monthly change in the labor force and employment in Wichita shows the magnitude of the drop in employment in April overwhelming other months, and then a positive change in employment for the following months. The rate of job growth is generally small except for October. The number of people in the labor force has both grown and shrank.
The following chart of changes from the same month one year ago shows a similar trend — fewer jobs, although the difference is becoming smaller as more people return to work.
The following chart of changes in employment from the same month of the previous year shows months when the Wichita MSA performed better than the nation before the pandemic. In all months affected by the pandemic, we see the loss in employment Wichita has not been as severe as the nation.
The following chart shows the monthly change in nonfarm jobs for Wichita and the nation. For December, the number of jobs in Wichita rose slightly, while for the nation, the number fell a small amount. For the previous months since the pandemic, Wichita employment has been growing at a rate slower than the national rate.
The following two charts show changes in jobs for Wichita and the nation over longer periods. The change is calculated from the same month of the previous year. For times when the Wichita line was above the nation, Wichita was growing faster than the nation. This was often the case during the decades starting in 1990 and 2000. Since 2010, however, Wichita has rarely outperformed the nation and sometimes has been far below the nation.
(For data on all metropolitan areas in the nation, see my interactive visualization Metro area employment and unemployment. It is updated through December 2020.)
The link to the archived version of the BLS news release for this month may be found here.