Tag Archives: Economics

Kansas jobs, May 2019

Employment in Kansas grew in May 2019, but continued a trend of slower growth than the nation. The labor force is smaller.

Data released yesterday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the United States Department of Labor, shows rising employment in Kansas for May 2019. (Click charts and tables for larger versions.)

Using seasonally adjusted data, from April 2019 to May 2019, nonfarm employment in Kansas rose by 600, which is 0.04 percent. Over the year, the number of Kansas nonfarm jobs for May 2019 rose by 12,900 or 0.9 percent over last May. This is using seasonally adjusted data. The non-adjusted figure is higher at 16,500, or 1.2 percent.

Over the year (May 2018 to May 2019), the Kansas labor force is up by 0.1 percent using seasonally adjusted data, with declines of 0.2 percent and 0.1 percent over the last two months. Non-seasonal data shows a decline of 1,574 (0.1 percent) in the labor force over the year.

The number of unemployed persons fell from April 2019 to May 2019 by 222, or 0.4 percent. The unemployment rate was 3.5 percent in May, up from 3.3 percent from one year ago, and unchanged from April.

Using seasonal data, Kansas jobs increased by 0.91 percent over the past 12 months, while national jobs grew by 1.58 percent.

Of the growth of 600 jobs from April to May, 100 were in the private sector, and 500 in government.

Goods-producing jobs fell by 1,100, while service-providing jobs rose by 1,700.

Construction jobs fell by 1,600, and 1,300 jobs were gained in trade, transportation, and utilities.

Click charts and tables for larger versions.

In the following chart of showing job changes from the same month one year ago, Kansas is always below the national rate.

In the following chart showing job changes from the previous month, Kansas sometimes outperforms the nation.

Airport traffic statistics, 2018

Airport traffic data presented in an interactive visualization, updated through 2018.

This visualization holds data from TranStats, a service of the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), which is the independent statistical agency within the United States Department of Transportation (DOT). While monthly data is available, this visualization holds annual totals.

The nearby example shows data starting in 2010 for the nation (blue lines) and Wichita. The visualization holds data for all U.S. airports with scheduled flights.

Example from the visualization, showing Wichita compared to all airports, through 2018. Click for larger

A few observations regarding Wichita airport traffic as compared to the nation:

  • Since 2014, passenger traffic (departing passengers) at the Wichita airport is higher, but traffic for the nation as a whole is much higher.
  • The number of scheduled departures has been declining in Wichita, while increasing for the nation after a decline.
  • The number of available seats on departing flights from Wichita has been mostly level, while rising sharply for the nation.
  • Load factor for Wichita has been rising, while level and declining slightly for the nation.

To view and use the interactive visualization, click here.

New metropolitan rankings regarding knowledge-based industries and entrepreneurship

New research provides insight into the Wichita metropolitan area economy and dynamism.

The Walton Family Foundation has released a study titled “The Most Dynamic Metropolitans,” saying it is new research ranking the economic performance of metropolitan areas in the Heartland and across the country. 1

Of the study, the authors write “Our Most Dynamic Metropolitan Index, and the analysis contained in this report provides objective insight into the communities providing economic opportunity for their residents, separating high performers from the low. Most Dynamic Metropolitans provides fact-based metrics on near-term and medium-term performance and prospects for long-term growth. The index allows economic development officials the ability to monitor their metro’s vivacity relative to others on a national basis or within their region and state.”

In the overall rankings, Wichita was number 319 of 379 metropolitan areas examined. Of note, this research recognizes the importance of young firms:

While most of our metrics are commonly used indicators of economic development, the young firm employment ratio is a relatively new measure. We use factor analysis to test our hypothesis that the ratio is an indicator of longer-term economic growth. Factor analysis is a statistical tool that can derive categories, called factors, from several variables by finding the ways clusters of variables move together. A factor analysis on all of our metrics tells us that we generally have the two factors we claimed to have above: one closely relating to variables such as 2016-2017 growth in average annual pay and 2017-2018 job growth. The second most closely relating to per-capita personal income, 2013-2017 growth in real GDP, 2013-2017 average annual pay growth and the young firm employment ratio. Thus, our hypothesis regarding the young firm employment ratio seems valid.

There have been some rankings showing Wichita doing well in jobs at young firms. 2 That’s good, as young firms — which are different from small business — are vitally important to economic growth. 3

This study, however, shows Wichita lagging in young firm employment ratio. In these rankings, Wichita came in at position 247 of 379 metro areas. That is better than the overall ranking for Wichita, which is at number 319.

The young firm employment ratio is calculated using data from 2016. Perhaps newer data will show something different.


Notes

  1. Walton Family Foundation. New Metropolitan Rankings Show Knowledge-Based Industries and Entrepreneurship Drive Success. June 10, 2019. Press release with links to documents available at https://www.waltonfamilyfoundation.org/about-us/newsroom/new-metropolitan-rankings-show-knowledge-based-industries-and-entrepreneurship-drive-success.
  2. Weeks, Bob. Metro Monitor evaluates the Wichita economy. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/economics/metro-monitor-evaluates-wichita-economy-2018/.
  3. Jason Wiens and Chris Jackson. The Importance of Young Firms for Economic Growth. Available at https://www.kauffman.org/what-we-do/resources/entrepreneurship-policy-digest/the-importance-of-young-firms-for-economic-growth.

Updated: Metropolitan populations

A visualization of the population of metropolitan statistical areas, now with annual data from 1969 through 2018.

For most types of economic and demographic analysis, metropolitan statistical areas (MSA) are preferred to cities proper. The Census Bureau notes: “The general concept of a metropolitan or micropolitan statistical area is that of a core area containing a substantial population nucleus, together with adjacent communities having a high degree of economic and social integration with that core.” 1

Wichita officials usually recognize this and have started to emphasize the importance of the region (the MSA), not just the city. Many of our civic agencies have named or renamed themselves like these examples: Greater Wichita Partnership, Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce, Blueprint for Regional Economic Growth, Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, Wichita Area Planning Organization, Regional Economic Area Partnership of South Central Kansas, South Central Kansas Economic Development District.

Further, there is more economic data available at the MSA level (compared to the city level) from agencies like Bureau of Labor Statistics and Bureau of Economic Analysis. This data includes important measures like employment, labor force, unemployment rate, gross domestic product, and personal income.

This visualization has several different views of population data, from tables to charts showing relative growth. A new feature is a map. You can select a range of years, and as you point to a metropolitan area you’ll see the population change over that time.

to access the visualization.

Example from the visualization. Click for larger.


Notes

Wichita airport traffic

Traffic is rising at the Wichita airport. How does it compare to others?

Click for larger.
Passenger traffic at Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport has been rising. We know that from news reports and social media. While rising activity is good, it’s important to place Wichita in context with other airports.

(The Wichita airport has reported data through April 2019, while comprehensive national data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics is available through February, so these comparisons are through February.)

Media reporting on the Wichita airport often uses “passengers” as the measure. The industry, however, uses “enplanements” as the most important measure of airport traffic. When Bureau of Transportation Statistics uses the term passengers, the precise meaning of the data is enplanements. 1

Looking at passengers (that is, enplanements) for the Wichita airport, we see that monthly Wichita passenger counts are rising, generally. 2 But not for all months. Over the past year, there were three months when traffic fell, compared to the same month of the previous year.

Compared to the nation, there were seven months in the past year when the increase in passengers in Wichita was greater than the change for all airports, as shown in the bars for each month in the nearby chart. Because of several slow months in Wichita coupled with some the of good months in Wichita being only slightly better than the nation, the overall picture is not as good for Wichita. This can be seen by the lines in the same chart, where the change in passengers over the last year is always higher for the nation.

Besides the number of passengers, we should also consider the number of flights departing an airport. This is particularly important to business travelers, as for them, the availability of a flight today or tomorrow may be more important than a bargain-price fare. In this chart, there are some months where the number of flights fell from the year before. The 12-month trend for Wichita is falling while rising for the nation.

Is the reported rising passenger count at the Wichita airport good news? Of course it is. But a useful assessment requires placing the Wichita data in context. In that context, the Wichita airport is underperforming.

Click charts for larger versions.

In the following chart of passengers, Wichita counts are generally rising, but not as fast as the nation. This data is indexed with January 2011 representing 100. The thicker lines are the average of the prior 12 months in order the smooth the seasonality of the monthly data.

In the following chart of the number of flights, Wichita is on a downward trend generally, although in the last two years the value has increased slightly.


Notes

  1. The government requires carriers to report enplanements, so it is a consistent measure across all airports. Further, airports generate revenue primarily from enplaned passengers rather than arriving passengers. The number of enplanements is almost exactly half the number of passengers. Over the last 15 years, enplanements in Wichita have accounted for 49.88 percent of passengers, with deplanements being 50.12 percent.
  2. Passenger traffic data is highly seasonal. It is not uncommon for passenger counts in the summer months to be 25 or 30 percent higher than winter counts. Therefore, comparisons are to the same month in the previous year.

Updated: Populations of the states

An interactive table and charts of populations in the states and regions, from 1929 through 2018.

How have the states grown in population since 1929? Growth varies widely. This visualization has several views that illustrate changes in state populations.

Click here to access this visualization.

Source of data is Bureau of Economic Analysis, an agency of the United States Department of Commerce.

Click for larger.

Populations of the states

An interactive table and charts of populations in the states and regions, starting in 1929.

How have the states grown in population since 1929? Growth varies greatly.

In the accompanying visualization, one chart of the growth of population uses a logarithmic scale. This better shows a wide range of values. On this scale, negative values can’t be shown. The example below highlights Kansas against the other states.

Another tab in this visualization displays a map of the states along with a slider to select a range of years. For each state, you can see the change in population over this range of time.

Click here to access this visualization.

Source of data is Bureau of Economic Analysis, an agency of the United States Department of Commerce.

Population growth in the states, Kansas highlighted, using logarithmic scale. Click for larger.
Population growth in the states, Kansas highlighted, using logarithmic scale. Click for larger.
Click for larger.

Updated: State government tax collections

Kansas personal income tax collections rose by $372 per person in 2018, an increase of 46.5 percent.

Each year the United States Census Bureau collects a summary of taxes collected by each state for 5 broad tax categories and up to 25 tax subcategories. 1 I’ve collected this data and made it available in an interactive visualization. Data is through 2018.

You may recall that Kansas raised personal income tax rates in 2017 and made the new rate retroactive to January 1, 2017. But that change doesn’t seem to have affected the data for fiscal year 2017. For 2016, Kansas collected $767 per person in individual income taxes, and for 2017, $800. Not much difference.

Now data for fiscal year 2018 is available, and it shows Kansas collecting $1,172 per person in individual income taxes, an increase of $372 or 46.5 percent over 2017.

(Here’s the reason for the 2017 data being relatively unaffected. For most states, including Kansas, this data is for the fiscal year, not the calendar year. 2 New withholding tax tables were not available until June 27, 2017, just three days before the end of fiscal year 2017. 3)

Considering all taxes, Kansas collected $3,279 per person in 2018, up from $2,808 in 2017, an increase of $471 or 16.8 percent.

Click here to access the visualization.

Click images for larger versions.

In the following chart showing total tax collections per person over time, Kansas now collects more than our surrounding states.

This chart shows for 2018, the total and the composition of taxes collected.


Notes

  1. United States Census Bureau. Annual Survey of State Government Tax Collections (STC). Available at https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/stc.html.
  2. United States Census Bureau. State Government Tax Collections: 2017 Technical Documentation. Available at https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/stc/technical-documentation/complete-technical-documentation/statetaxtechdoc2017.pdf.
  3. Kansas Department of Revenue. New Kansas income tax withholding tables now available. Available at https://www.ksrevenue.org/CMS/content/06-27-2017-NewWHTables.pdf.

Real personal income

Click chart for a larger version, or click here for the chart’s page at FREDs Economic Data at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Billions of Chained 2012 Dollars, Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate, Percent Change from Year Ago, Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate.
Frequency: Monthly.
U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Real Personal Income [RPI], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/RPI, May 31, 2019.

Wichita jobs and employment, April 2019

For the Wichita metropolitan area in April 2019, the labor force is up, the number of unemployed persons is down, the unemployment rate is down, and the number of people working is up when compared to the same month one year ago. Seasonal data shows small declines in labor force and jobs from March.

Data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the United States Department of Labor, shows an improving, but also mixed, employment situation for the Wichita Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Click charts and tables for larger versions.

Total nonfarm employment rose from 298,500 last April to 303,400 this April. That’s an increase of 4,900 jobs, or 1.64 percent. (This data is not seasonally adjusted, so month-to-month comparisons are not valid.) For the same period, jobs in the nation grew by 1.76 percent.

The unemployment rate in April 2019 was 3.3 percent, down from 3.5 percent one year ago.

Considering seasonally adjusted data from the household survey, the labor force fell by 227 persons (0.1 percent) in April 2019 from March 2019, the number of unemployed persons fell by 97 (0.8 percent), and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.7 percent. The number of employed persons not working on farms fell to 299,538 in April from 299,668 the prior month, a decline of 130 persons, or 0.0 percent.

The following chart of the monthly change in labor force and employment shows a general decline over the past year, with some recent months of losses for both measures.

The following chart of changes from the same month one year ago shows a general decline in the rate of growth.

Looking at the charts of changes in employment year-over-year, we see some months in the past year where Wichita outperformed the nation. That last happened in 2012.

This article has been updated to correct a mistake in the original version.

Wichita population, 2018

The City of Wichita lost 1,052 in population from 2017 to 2018, a decline of 0.27 percent.

Data released today by the United States Census Bureau shows the City of Wichita losing population from July 1, 2017, to July 1, 2018. 1

The bureau’s estimate of city population on July 1, 2018 is 389,255. This is a decline of 1,052 (0.27 percent) from the year before. These are populations of cities, not metropolitan areas, although the Wichita metropolitan area also lost population. 2

The estimate of population on July 1, 2017 was revised from 390,591 to 390,317, meaning that for 2017, Wichita population declined by 242 from the July 1, 2016 population of 390,509.

With the revised 2017 figure, Wichita has had two years of declining population, as can be seen in the nearby chart.

While Wichita lost 0.27 percent of its population in one year, the top 100 cities gained 0.51 percent. Since 2010, Wichita has grown by 1.71 percent, while the top 100 cities grew by 7.57 percent.

Wichita is the fifty-first largest city, down from fiftieth the two prior years.


Notes

  1. Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places of 50,000 or More, Ranked by July 1, 2018 Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2018 Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division Release Date: May 2019
  2. Weeks, Bob. Wichita population falls; outmigration continues. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/wichita-population-falls-outmigration-continues/.

Sedgwick County job growth continues strong pace

In the fourth quarter of 2018, Sedgwick County continued strong job growth.

Data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the United States Department of Labor, show a continuing strong jobs picture for Sedgwick County.

Data from the Bureau’s Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) program show that from December 2017 to December 2018, Sedgwick County gained 5,500 jobs, which is a rate of 2.2 percent, as calculated by BLS. For the nation, growth was 1.5 percent.

The job growth rate for Sedgwick County was 100th best among the nation’s 350 largest counties.

While the job growth rate in Sedgwick County for the fourth quarter of 2018 exceeded the national rate, for the most recent four quarters the average rate for Sedgwick County was 1.3 percent, and 1.6 percent for the nation.

Average weekly wages in Sedgwick County increased by 3.8 percent over the year to $946. For the nation, wages rose by 3.2 percent to $1,144.

Click charts for larger versions.

Kansas jobs, April 2019

Employment in Kansas continues to grow in April 2019, but continues a trend of slower growth than the nation. The labor force is smaller.

Data released today from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the United States Department of Labor, shows rising employment in Kansas for April 2019.

Click for larger

Using seasonally adjusted data, from March 2019 to April 2019, nonfarm employment in Kansas rose by 6,900, which is 0.5 percent. Over the year, the number of Kansas nonfarm jobs for April 2019 rose by 12,400 or 0.9 percent over last April. This is using seasonally adjusted data. The non-adjusted figure is nearly identical at 12,300.

Over the year (April 2018 to April 2019), the Kansas labor force is up by 0.3 percent using seasonally adjusted data, with declines of 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent over the last two months. Non-seasonal data shows a decline of 7,033 (0.5 percent) in the labor force over the year.

The number of unemployed persons fell from March 2019 to April 2019 by 331, or 0.6 percent. The unemployment rate was 3.5 percent in April, up from 3.4 percent from one year ago, and unchanged from March.

Looking at annual job growth on a monthly basis shows Kansas averaging 0.94 percent over the past 12 months, while the rate for the nation is 1.75 percent.

Click charts and tables for larger versions.

Wichita personal income growing, but slowly

Among the nation’s 383 metropolitan areas, Wichita ranked 347th for personal income growth.

Statistics released today by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, an agency of the United States Department of Commerce, show personal income in the Wichita metro area growing at a slow rate.

The figures released today are through calendar year 2017. For that year, personal income in the Wichita metropolitan statistical area was $30,801 million, up 2.3 percent from $30,103 million the previous year. These are current dollars.

Using inflation-adjusted dollars, income growth was 0.7 percent.

Of 383 metropolitan areas, Wichita ranked 347 for growth from 2016 to 2017.

Per capita personal income in the Wichita MSA for 2017 was $47,708 in current dollars, up 2.2 percent from $46,696 in 2016. In inflation-adjusted dollars, per capita personal income grew by 0.5 percent from 2016 to 2017. This growth rate ranked at position 327 among 383 metropolitan areas.

BEA offers these definitions:

Personal income is the income received by, or on behalf of, all persons from all sources: from participation as laborers in production, from owning a home or business, from the ownership of financial assets, and from government and business in the form of transfers. It includes income from domestic sources as well as the rest of world. It does not include realized or unrealized capital gains or losses.

Personal income is measured before the deduction of personal income taxes and other personal taxes and is reported in current dollars (no adjustment is made for price changes). Comparisons for different regions and time periods reflect changes in both the price and quantity components of regional personal income.

The estimate of personal income for the United States is the sum of the state estimates and the estimate for the District of Columbia; it differs slightly from the estimate of personal income in the national income and product accounts (NIPAs) because of differences in coverage, in the methodologies used to prepare the estimates, and in the timing of the availability of source data.

Per capita personal income is calculated as the total personal income of the residents of a given area divided by the population of the area. In computing per capita personal income, BEA uses Census Bureau mid-year population estimates.

Kansas personal income growing, but slowly

For 2017, just four states had less growth in personal income than Kansas.

Statistics released today by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, an agency of the United States Department of Commerce, show personal income in Kansas growing at a slow rate.

The figures released today are through calendar year 2017. For that year, personal income in Kansas grew to $141,459 million, up 2.4 percent from $138,105 million the previous year. These are current dollars.

Using inflation-adjusted dollars, income growth was 0.8 percent.

Of the states, BEA noted: “Two states had declines in real personal income — North Dakota (-1.3 percent) and South Dakota (-0.4 percent). States with the slowest growth in real personal income were Iowa (0.3 percent), New Mexico (0.6 percent), and Kansas (0.8 percent).”

The per capita personal income figures for Kansas rose by the same percentage values as the current and inflation-adjusted income. In current dollars, per capita personal income in Kansas for 2017 was $48,600.

BEA offers these definitions:

Personal income is the income received by, or on behalf of, all persons from all sources: from participation as laborers in production, from owning a home or business, from the ownership of financial assets, and from government and business in the form of transfers. It includes income from domestic sources as well as the rest of world. It does not include realized or unrealized capital gains or losses.

Personal income is measured before the deduction of personal income taxes and other personal taxes and is reported in current dollars (no adjustment is made for price changes). Comparisons for different regions and time periods reflect changes in both the price and quantity components of regional personal income.

The estimate of personal income for the United States is the sum of the state estimates and the estimate for the District of Columbia; it differs slightly from the estimate of personal income in the national income and product accounts (NIPAs) because of differences in coverage, in the methodologies used to prepare the estimates, and in the timing of the availability of source data.

Per capita personal income is calculated as the total personal income of the residents of a given area divided by the population of the area. In computing per capita personal income, BEA uses Census Bureau mid-year population estimates.

The finances of Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita

A truthful accounting of the finances of Intrust Bank Arena in downtown Wichita shows a large loss. Despite hosting the NCAA basketball tournament, the arena’s “net income” fell.

The true state of the finances of the Intrust Bank Arena in downtown Wichita are not often a subject of public discussion. Arena boosters cite a revenue-sharing arrangement between the county and the arena operator, referring to this as profit or loss. But this arrangement is not an accurate and complete accounting, and it hides the true economics of the arena. What’s missing is depreciation expense.

Intrust Bank Arena Payments to Sedgwick County. Click for larger
There are at least two ways of looking at the finance of the arena. Nearly all attention is given to the “profit” (or loss) earned by the arena for the county according to an operating agreement between the county and SMG, a company that operates the arena.

This agreement specifies a revenue sharing mechanism between the county and SMG. For 2108, the accounting method used in this agreement produced a profit, or “net building income,” of $647,634 to be split (not equally) between SMG and the county. The county’s share was $123,817. 1

Intrust Bank Arena Payments to Sedgwick County. Click for larger.
While described as “profit” by many, this payment does not represent any sort of “profit” or “earnings” in the usual sense. In fact, the introductory letter that accompanies these calculations warns readers that these are “not intended to be a complete presentation of INTRUST Bank Arena’s financial position and results of operations in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America.” 2

That bears repeating: This is not a reckoning of profit and loss in any recognized sense. It is simply an agreement between Sedgwick County and SMG as to how SMG is to be paid, and how the county participates.

A much better reckoning of the economics of the Intrust Bank Arena can be found in the 2018 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for Sedgwick County. 3 This document holds additional information about the finances of the Intrust Bank Arena. The CAFR, as described by the county, “… is a review of what occurred financially last year. In that respect, it is a report card of our ability to manage our financial resources.”

Regarding the arena in 2018, the CAFR states:

The Arena Fund represents the activity of the INTRUST Bank Arena. The facility is operated by a private company; the County incurs expenses only for certain capital improvements or major repairs and depreciation, and receives as revenue only a share of profits earned by the operator, if any, and naming rights fees. The Arena Fund had an operating loss of $4.5 million. The loss can be attributed to $4.8 million in depreciation expense.

Financial statements in the same document show that $4,783,229 was charged for depreciation in 2017. If we subtract the SMG payment to the county of $123,817 from depreciation expense, we learn that the Intrust Bank Arena lost $4,659,412 in 2018.

(Of note, 2018 was the year the arena hosted a round of NCAA men’s basketball tournament games. For that year, the payment from SMG to the county was down by 58.8 percent from $300,414 in 2017. Attendance rose by 4.2 percent.)

Depreciation expense is not something that is paid out in cash. That is, Sedgwick County did not write a check for $4,659,412 to pay depreciation expense. Instead, depreciation accounting provides a way to recognize and account for the cost of long-lived assets over their lifespan. It provides a way to recognize opportunity costs, that is, what could be done with our resources if not spent on the arena.

But not many of our civic leaders recognize this, at least publicly. We — frequently — observe our governmental and civic leaders telling us that we must “run government like a business.” The county’s financial report makes mention of this: “Sedgwick County has one business-type activity, the Arena fund. Net position for fiscal year 2018 decreased by $4.7 million to $151.6 million. Of that $151.6 million, $142.9 million is invested in capital assets. The decrease can be attributed to depreciation, which was $4.8 million.” 4 (emphasis added)

At the same time, these leaders avoid frank and realistic discussion of economic facts. As an example, in years past Commissioner Dave Unruh made remarks that illustrate the severe misunderstanding under which he and almost everyone labor regarding the nature of spending on the arena: “I want to underscore the fact that the citizens of Sedgwick County voted to pay for this facility in advance. And so not having debt service on it is just a huge benefit to our government and to the citizens, so we can go forward without having to having to worry about making those payments and still show positive cash flow. So it’s still a great benefit to our community and I’m still pleased with this report.”

The contention — witting or not — is that the capital investment of $183,625,241 (not including an operating and maintenance reserve) in the arena is merely a historical artifact, something that happened in the past, something that has no bearing today. There is no opportunity cost, according to this view. This attitude, however, disrespects the sacrifices of the people of Sedgwick County and its visitors to raise those funds. Since Kansas is one of the few states that adds sales tax to food, low-income households paid extra sales tax on their groceries to pay for the arena — an arena where they may not be able to afford tickets.

Any honest accounting or reckoning of the performance of Intrust Bank Arena must take depreciation into account. While Unruh is correct that depreciation expense is not a cash expense that affects cash flow, it is an economic reality that can’t be ignored — except by politicians, apparently. The Wichita Eagle and Wichita Business Journal aid in promoting this deception.

The upshot: We’re evaluating government and making decisions based on incomplete and false information, just to gratify the egos of self-serving politicians and bureaucrats.

Reporting on Intrust Bank Arena financial data

In February 2015 the Wichita Eagle reported: “The arena’s net income for 2014 came in at $122,853, all of which will go to SMG, the company that operates the facility under contract with the county, Assistant County Manager Ron Holt said Wednesday.” A reading of the minutes for the February 11 meeting of the Sedgwick County Commission finds Holt mentioning depreciation expense not a single time. Neither did the Eagle article.

In December 2014, in a look at the first five years of the arena, its manager told the Wichita Eagle this: “‘We know from a financial standpoint, the building has been successful. Every year, it’s always been in the black, and there are a lot of buildings that don’t have that, so it’s a great achievement,’ said A.J. Boleski, the arena’s general manager.”

The Wichita Eagle opinion page hasn’t been helpful, with Rhonda Holman opining with thoughts like this: “Though great news for taxpayers, that oversize check for $255,678 presented to Sedgwick County last week reflected Intrust Bank Arena’s past, specifically the county’s share of 2013 profits.” (For some years, the county paid to create a large “check” for publicity purposes.)

That followed her op-ed from a year before, when she wrote: “And, of course, Intrust Bank Arena has the uncommon advantage among public facilities of having already been paid for, via a 30-month, 1 percent sales tax approved by voters in 2004 that actually went away as scheduled.” That thinking, of course, ignores the economic reality of depreciation.

In 2018, the Wichita Eagle reported, based on partial-year results: “Intrust Bank Arena remains profitable but is reporting a 20 percent drop in income this year, despite a bump from the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament. Net income for the first three quarters of this year was about $556,000. That’s down from just shy of $700,000 last year, according to a report to the Sedgwick County Commission.” 5 This use of “profitable” is based only on the special revenue-sharing agreement, not generally accepted accounting principles.

Even our city’s business press — which ought to know better — writes headlines like Intrust Bank Arena tops $1.1M in net income for 2015 without mentioning depreciation expense or explaining the non-conforming accounting methods used to derive this number.

All of these examples are deficient in an important way: They contribute confusion to the search for truthful accounting of the arena’s finances. Recognizing depreciation expense is vital to understanding profit or loss, we’re not doing that.


Notes

  1. The Operations of INTRUST Bank Arena, as Managed by SMG. Independent Auditor’s Report and Special-Purpose Financial Statements. December 31, 2018. Available here.
  2. Ibid, pages 4 and 7.
  3. Sedgwick County. Comprehensive Annual Financial Report of the County of Sedgwick, Kansas for the Year ended December 31, 2018. Available at https://www.sedgwickcounty.org/finance/comprehensive-annual-financial-reports/.
  4. CAFR, page A-10.
  5. Lefler, Dion. Despite March Madness, Intrust Bank Arena profit down 20 percent. December 7, 2018. Available at https://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article222300675.html.

More Wichita planning on tap

We should be wary of government planning in general. But when those who have been managing and planning the foundering Wichita-area economy want to step up their management of resources, we risk compounding our problems.

As announced by the City of Wichita, “In response to recent recommendations from Project Wichita and the Century II Citizens Advisory Committee, community organizations and their leadership are stepping forward to take the next step to create a comprehensive master plan and vision that connects projects and both banks of the Arkansas River.”

The city says these organizations will be involved:

We should note that these organizations have been responsible for developing the Wichita-area economy for many years. Despite recent developments like Cargill and Spirit Aerosystems, the Wichita economy has performed below the nation. While improving, our economic growth is perhaps half the national rate, and just two years ago Wichita lost jobs and population, and economic output fell.

Thus, the question is this: Why these organizations?

Then, recent behavior by the city, specifically surrounding the new ballpark, has resulted in a loss of credibility. Few seem happy with the city’s conduct. To this day, we still do not know the identities of the partners except for one.

In the future, can we trust the city and its partners are telling us the truth, and the whole truth?

Then, there are the problems with government planning. Randal O’Toole is an expert on the problems with government planning. His book The Best-Laid Plans: How Government Planning Harms Your Quality of Life, Your Pocketbook, and Your Future

Planning seems like a good thing. But O’Toole tells us the problem with government plans: “Everybody plans. But private plans are flexible, and we happily change them when new information arises. In contrast, special interest groups ensure that the government plans benefiting them do not change — no matter how costly.”

He continues: “Like any other organization, government agencies need to plan their budgets and short-term projects. But they fail when they write comprehensive plans (which try to account for all side effects), long-range plans (two to 50 years or more), or plans that attempt to control other people’s land and resources. Many plans try to do all three.”

Other problems with government planning as identified by O’Toole (and many others):

  • Planners have no better insight into the future than anyone else
  • Planners will not pay the costs they impose on other people
  • Unlike planners, markets can cope with complexity

Some will argue that the organizations listed above are not government entities and shouldn’t exhibit the problems inherent with government planning. But their plans will undoubtedly need to be approved by, and enforced by, government.

Further, some of these organizations are funded substantially or nearly entirely by government, are in favor of more government (such as higher taxation and regulation), and campaign vigorously for candidates who support more taxes and planning.

Following, from Randal O’Toole as published in 2007.

Government Plans Don’t Work

By Randal O’Toole

Unlike planners, markets can cope with complexity and change.

After more than 30 years of reviewing government plans, including forest plans, park plans, watershed plans, wildlife plans, energy plans, urban plans, and transportation plans, I’ve concluded that government planning almost always does more harm than good.

Most government plans are so full of fabrications and unsupportable assumptions that they aren’t worth the paper they are printed on, much less the millions of dollars taxpayers spend to have them written. Federal, state, and local governments should repeal planning laws and shut down planning offices.

Everybody plans. But private plans are flexible, and we happily change them when new information arises. In contrast, special interest groups ensure that the government plans benefiting them do not change — no matter how costly.

Like any other organization, government agencies need to plan their budgets and short-term projects. But they fail when they write comprehensive plans (which try to account for all side effects), long-range plans (two to 50 years or more), or plans that attempt to control other people’s land and resources. Many plans try to do all three.

Comprehensive plans fail because forests, watersheds, and cities are simply too complicated for anyone to understand. Chaos science reveals that very tiny differences in initial conditions can lead to huge differences in outcomes — that’s why megaprojects such as Boston’s Big Dig go so far over budget.

Long-range plans fail because planners have no better insight into the future than anyone else, so their plans will be as wrong as their predictions are.

Planning of other people’s land and resources fails because planners will not pay the costs they impose on other people, so they have no incentive to find the best answers.

Most of the nation’s 32,000 professional planners graduated from schools that are closely affiliated with colleges of architecture, giving them an undue faith in design. This means many plans put enormous efforts into trying to control urban design while they neglect other tools that could solve social problems at a much lower cost.

For example, planners propose to reduce automotive air pollution by increasing population densities to reduce driving. Yet the nation’s densest urban area, Los Angeles, which is seven times as dense as the least dense areas, has only 8 percent less commuting by auto. In contrast, technological improvements over the past 40 years, which planners often ignore, have reduced the pollution caused by some cars by 99 percent.

Some of the worst plans today are so-called growth-management plans prepared by states and metropolitan areas. They try to control who gets to develop their land and exactly what those developments should look like, including their population densities and mixtures of residential, retail, commercial, and other uses. “The most effective plans are drawn with such precision that only the architectural detail is left to future designers,” says a popular planning book.

About a dozen states require or encourage urban areas to write such plans. Those states have some of the nation’s least affordable housing, while most states and regions that haven’t written such plans mostly have very affordable housing. The reason is simple: planning limits the supply of new housing, which drives up the price of all housing and leads to housing bubbles.

In states with growth-management laws, median housing prices in 2006 were typically 4 to 8 times median family incomes. In most states without such laws, median home prices are only 2 to 3 times median family incomes.

Few people realize that the recent housing bubble, which affected mainly regions with growth-management planning, was caused by planners trying to socially engineer cities. Yet it has done little to protect open space, reduce driving, or do any of the other things promised.

Politicians use government planning to allocate scarce resources on a large scale. Instead, they should make sure that markets — based on prices, incentives, and property rights — work.

Private ownership of wildlife could save endangered species such as the black-footed ferret, North America’s most-endangered mammal. Variably priced toll roads have helped reduce congestion. Pollution markets do far more to clean the air than exhortations to drive less. Giving people freedom to use their property, and ensuring only that their use does not harm others, will keep housing affordable.

Unlike planners, markets can cope with complexity. Futures markets cushion the results of unexpected changes. Markets do not preclude government ownership, but the best-managed government programs are funded out of user fees that effectively make government managers act like private owners. Rather than passing the buck by turning sticky problems over to government planners, policymakers should make sure markets give people what they want.

Updated: Gross domestic product by state and industry

An interactive visualization of GDP by state and industry, updated with annual data through 2018.

New figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, an agency of the United States Department of Commerce, show gross domestic product in the states by industry.

BEA defines GDP as “the value of the goods and services produced by the nation’s economy less the value of the goods and services used up in production.” It is the value of the final goods and services produced. These values are real, meaning adjusted for inflation. The values for year 2018 are preliminary and subject to revision.

As shown in the accompanying illustration, Kansas has not kept up with most surrounding states.

In the interactive visualization, you may select a time period, one or more states, and one or more industries.

To learn more about the data and access the visualization, click here.

Click for larger.

State of the City, Wichita: Employment strength

Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell’s State of the City video relies on flimsy evidence and plucks scant good news from a sea of bad. This is a problem.

Recently Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell delivered the State of the City video. It was posted to YouTube on March 28, 2019, and may be viewed here.

In this video, the mayor said, “The recent Livability.com study measured employment rates strength over time, affordability, and community amenities.” This isn’t the first time the mayor and other city officials have mentioned this study, if we can even call it that. 1 In January, a tweet from the official @CityofWichita Twitter account contained: “We have been named one of the top two recession-proof cities in the nation by @Livability. Wichita was praised for its ability to withstand turbulence in the national economy, steady job growth and the state’s low income-to-debt ratio.” 2

What does the data tell us? The nearby chart illustrates that since the end of the last recession, job growth in Wichita has been below job growth in the nation as a whole. Generally, job growth in Wichita has been at about half the rate of the nation. In 2017, Wichita lost jobs. Yet, City of Wichita officials, including Mayor Longwell, tout “steady job growth,” relying on a study that obviously isn’t based on evidence.

Click for larger.

The mayor also said: “Wichita’s unemployment rate is at a historically low 3.5%, and WSU forecasts that Wichita is expected to see an across-the-board increase in overall jobs this year.”

Look at the data. In this table, we see that the unemployment rate (monthly average) for 2018 is nearly unchanged from 1999. Also nearly unchanged for these 19 years are the civilian labor force and number of jobs. Both values are slightly lower now. This is not “steady job growth,” as Wichita officials proclaim. It is stagnation.

It’s not only employment that has been bad news. In 2017 the Wichita economy contracted, which is the definition of a recession. 3 Personal income has grown only slowly. 4

Regarding jobs, the mayor accurately reports what the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University forecast said: Jobs are forecast to rise in Wichita for 2019. 5 Specifically, the report said: “Wichita is estimated to add approximately 2,500 jobs in 2018, and growth is projected to increase modestly to 0.9 percent in 2019, with more than 2,700 new jobs added.”

Is 0.9 percent job growth good? Nationally, the economy is expected to continue strong growth, although perhaps slightly slower than in 2018. 6 Nationally, job growth is forecast at 1.7 percent for 2019. 7 Wichita’s forecast rate of 0.9 percent is 53 percent of the national rate.

It’s good news that jobs are set to grow rather than shrink. But in a surging national economy, that’s setting a low standard for success.

What’s unfortunate is the mayor and city promote things like this as good news. But when we use readily accessible data from sources like the Bureau of Labor Statistics (part of the United States Department of Labor) and Bureau of Economic Analysis (a division of the United States Department of Commerce), we easily see that we’re not being told the entire story. “Recession-proof” glosses over recent years of declining production. “Historically low” unemployment rates ignore a stagnant and declining labor force. “An across-the-board increase in overall jobs this year” doesn’t contextualize that the forecast rate of growth for Wichita is anemic compared to the nation.

What we need to know is this: Are the mayor and city officials aware of the actual statistics, or are they ignorant?


Notes

  1. Weeks, Bob. Wichita, a recession-proof city. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/wichita-recession-proof-city/.
  2. Twitter, January 22, 2019. https://twitter.com/CityofWichita/status/1087832893274157059.
  3. “For 2017, the Wichita metropolitan area GDP, in real dollars, fell by 1.4 percent. Revised statistics for 2016 indicate growth of 3.8 percent for that year. Last year BEA reported growth of -1.4 percent.” Weeks, Bob. Wichita economy shrinks, and a revision. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/economics/wichita-economy-shrinks-and-revision/.
  4. “For all metropolitan areas in the United States, personal income rose by 4.5 percent. For the Wichita metro area, the increase was 2.3 percent. Of 383 metropolitan areas, Wichita’s growth rate was at position 342.” Weeks, Bob. *Personal income in Wichita rises, but slowly. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/economics/personal-income-in-wichita-rises-but-slowly/.
  5. Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University. Wichita Employment Forecast. January 8, 2019. Available at http://www.cedbr.org/forecast-blog/forecasts-wichita/1558-economic-outlook-wichita-2019-january-revision.
  6. Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee. December 18-19, 2018. Available at https://www.federalreserve.gov/monetarypolicy/fomcminutes20181219.htm.
  7. Yandle, Bruce. Block out the noise: Here’s the 2019 economic outlook. Available at https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/block-out-the-noise-heres-the-2019-economic-outlook.

Kansas GDP

In the fourth quarter of 2018, the Kansas economy grew at the annual rate of 0.9 percent, down from 1.2 percent the previous quarter.

In the fourth quarter of 2018, the Kansas economy grew at the annual rate of 0.9 percent in real (inflation-adjusted) dollars, according to statistics released today by Bureau of Economic Analysis, a division of the United States Department of Commerce. GDP for the quarter was at the annual rate of $169,558 million.

The rate of 0.9 percent ranked forty-fifth among the states.

Quarterly GDP growth for states can be volatile, as shown in the nearby chart.

Over the last eight quarters, Kansas has averaged quarterly growth rates of 0.5 percent in annual terms. For the nation, the rate was 2.7 percent. For the Plains states, it was 1.5 percent. (For this data, BEA defines Plains states as Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota.)

For Kansas, industries that differed markedly from the nation include agriculture, utilities, construction, nondurable goods manufacturing, educational services, and government and government enterprises.