Unemployment in Kansas

New Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer proudly cites the low Kansas unemployment rate, but there is more to the story.

In his recent speech to the legislature, Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer said, “There’s some good news to report here. According to the most recent data, the Kansas unemployment rate is 3.4%. That’s one of the lowest in the country, and the lowest our state has seen in more than seventeen years!”

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the United States Department of Labor shows changes to Kansas employment. The recent peak of the unemployment rate in Kansas was in 2009, when the rate reached 7.3 percent, averaging 6.9 percent for the entire year. In December 2017 it was 3.4 percent, just as the governor said. But since the unemployment rate is a ratio of two numbers, it can change for several reasons, and not all reasons are good news.

As shown in the nearby table, the unemployment rate since 2009 is down, and down a lot. Similarly, the number of unemployed persons is down, too, by nearly half. Good news.

But the number of employed persons has barely changed since 2009, rising by just one percent. At the same time, the labor force has fallen by 2.4 percent. The contracting labor force is the largest factor in the declining Kansas unemployment rate, and that is not good news.

Kansas labor statistics. Click for larger.

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