Tag Archives: Greater Wichita Partnership

Metropolitan employment and labor force

A visualization of employment, labor force, and unemployment rate for metropolitan areas, now with data through May 2019.

How does the Wichita metropolitan area compare with others regarding employment, labor force, and unemployment rate? A nearby example shows data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the United States Department of Labor. Considering growth of employment since the start of the decade, the answer is Wichita has not performed well.

This illustration came from an interactive visualization I created from BLS data. Click here to learn more and use the visualization.

Click for larger.

Wichita jobs and employment, May 2019

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

Data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the United States Department of Labor, shows a slowing employment situation for the Wichita Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Click charts and tables for larger versions.

Total nonfarm employment rose from 300,000 last May to 303,200 this May. That’s an increase of 3,200 jobs, or 1.1 percent. (This data is not seasonally adjusted, so month-to-month comparisons are not valid.) For the same period, employment in the nation grew by 1.5 percent. The unemployment rate in May 2019 was 3.5 percent, same as one year ago.

Considering seasonally adjusted data from the household survey, the labor force fell by 402 persons (0.1 percent) in May 2019 from April 2019, the number of unemployed persons fell by 57 (0.5 percent), and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.7 percent. The number of employed persons not working on farms fell to 299,023 in May from 299,368 the prior month, a decline of 345 persons, or 0.1 percent.

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

The following chart of changes from the same month one year ago shows six consecutive months of decline in the rate of growth of both employment and labor force. The values are growing, but at a slower pace each month.

Wichita population, according to Mayor Longwell

It is unfortunate that Wichita city and metro populations are falling. It is unimaginable that our city’s top leader is not aware of the latest population trends.

In May, Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell told viewers of the KPTS Television program Call the Mayor that he was not aware of the latest United States Census Bureau estimates of population for Wichita. (A transcript of this portion of the program is below.)

Mayor Longwell said he wasn’t aware of the estimate, telling the audience, “census estimates are different than the census.” Absolutely correct. The census, which is an attempt to count the population, happens only once every ten years, while census estimates for population are produced annually. With only decennial data, we wouldn’t know much about recent developments.

Estimates are important. We use them in numerous circumstances when producing a count would be expensive. Mayor Longwell said he hasn’t seen estimates for population, but he knows the unemployment rate for Wichita. That is also an estimate produced by a different branch of the federal government. The city uses many estimates. The “City Overview” section of the budget document starts with: “Wichita, the largest city in Kansas with a population 389,965 …” The footnote gives the source of the data as “2015 Census population estimates.”

On Call the Mayor, Longwell said, “our population in Wichita has grown from 2000 by nearly 40,000 people.” Interestingly, if the mayor doesn’t want to use estimates, he should have said the City of Wichita population grew by about 30,000, as that is the difference between the 2010 and 2000 census counts. Based on the estimate of city population for 2018, growth has been almost 37,000.

Wichita and top 100 city population, annual change, through 2018. Click for larger.
It’s too bad that the mayor doesn’t know the latest population estimates, because they don’t hold good news. The City of Wichita proper lost 1,052 in population from 2017 to 2018, a decline of 0.27 percent. 1 For the same period, the Wichita Metropolitan Statistical Area population fell by 740 persons, or 0.11 percent. Net domestic migration for the Wichita metro area showed a loss of 3,023 persons, or 0.47 percent of the population. This change, on a proportional basis, was 301st among the 383 largest metro areas. 2

Wichita’s unemployment rate is low, and has been declining

One of the reasons the Wichita unemployment rate is low is because of a declining labor force. As can be seen in the nearby chart, the unemployment rate (green line) has fallen — and by a lot — since the end of the last recession in 2009. (Click here for an interactive version of the chart.) But the unemployment rate depends on two things, one being the labor force as the denominator of a fraction, or ratio. If the denominator (labor force) falls at a greater rate than the numerator, the unemployment rate will fall. That is what has happened in Wichita.

Wichita labor force and employment. Click for larger.

For example, on January 1, 2010, the labor force in Wichita was 320,287 and the number of unemployed persons was 28,523, resulting in an unemployment rate of 8.9 percent. The number of employed persons was 291,764.

Then, on April 1, 2019, the labor force in Wichita was 311,114 (falling by 9,173 or 2.9 percent) and the number of unemployed persons was 11,576 (falling by 16,947 or 59.4 percent), resulting in an unemployment rate of 3.7 percent. The number of employed persons was 299,538 (rising by 7,774 or 2.7 percent).

If, for example, the current labor force was the same size as on January 1, 2010, and we have the same number of employed people as we do today, there would be 20,749 unemployed people, and the unemployment rate would be 6.5 percent instead of 3.7 percent. (We don’t know what would have happened had the labor force not fallen, but this is an example of how the arithmetic works.)

This is unfortunate

It is unfortunate that the city and metro populations are falling. It is unimaginable that our city’s top leader is not aware of the latest population trends. These numbers are easy to find. Until recently, they would be reported in local news media.

But the city has an economic development staff that ought to be aware of these numbers. There is the Greater Wichita Partnership, responsible for shepherding economic development. There is a city manager, assistant city manager, six city council members, and a fleet of bureaucrats. Didn’t any of these people know the population has declined? If not, why not?

And if any knew the population was declining and didn’t tell the mayor, well, that’s another problem.

Transcript from Call the Mayor, May 30, 2019

Host: We have a Facebook question from Bob. Could you please comment on the recent US Census Bureau population estimates for the city of Wichita and Wichita metro stat area for the year ending July 1, 2018. It’s very specific but the latest on the census for Wichita.

Longwell: So the census estimates are different than the census and so I’m not I haven’t seen the census estimate data specifically. I know the region … Wichita is becoming a destination for health care and so you’re starting to see many people in rural Kansas migrate to big cities and we’re no different. I know that our population in Wichita has grown from 2000 by nearly 40,000 people and so we will continue to see that growth and right now we need more people. We need people to fill these jobs that are in Wichita. Our unemployment’s at historic low right now.

To view the program on YouTube starting at the point of this question, click here.


Notes

  1. Weeks, Bob. Wichita population, 2018. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/economics/wichita-city-population-2018/.
  2. Weeks, Bob. Wichita population falls; outmigration continues. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/wichita-population-falls-outmigration-continues/.

Wichita and other airports

How does the Wichita airport compare to others?

The nearby chart shows data starting in 2010 for Wichita and selected airports, as well as all U.S. airports. For all measures except load factor, Wichita is at or near the bottom. Often the trend for Wichita underperforms the other airports, too.

It is not too surprising that the Wichita airport lags others, as the Wichita economy has been underperforming, even losing jobs in 2017. Now we know that the metropolitan area and city proper have lost population.

Local business leaders have formed a campaign to promote using the airport. The statistics in this chart and the visualization end shortly before that campaign started.

This chart was created from a visualization holding 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 through 2018.

The visualization holds data for all U.S. airports with scheduled flights. To view and use the interactive visualization, click here.

Wichita and selected airports. Click for larger.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Wichita jobs and employment, March 2019

For the Wichita metropolitan area in March 2019, jobs are up, the labor force is up, and the unemployment rate is unchanged when compared to the same month one year ago. Seasonal data shows a small decline in jobs from February.

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 296,000 last March to 300,700 this March. That’s an increase of 4,700 jobs, or 1.6 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 1.7 percent.

The unemployment rate in March 2019 was 3.9 percent, the same as one year ago.

Considering seasonally adjusted data from the household survey, the labor force rose by persons (0.0 percent) in March 2019 from February 2019, the number of unemployed persons rose by 149 (1.3 percent), and the unemployment rate rose from 3.7 percent to 3.8 percent. The number of employed persons not working on farms fell to 299,597 in March from 299,738 the prior month, a decline of 141 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 recent declines 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.

State of the City, Wichita: The bright future

Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell’s State of the City video doesn’t seem to be based on reality.

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.

Not long into the address, the mayor says, “… we must embrace the challenges we face and forge ahead into the bright future that is just around the corner.”

Wichita MSA population, percent change from prior year. Click for larger.
On that bright future: Since the mayor spoke, learned that the Wichita metropolitan area lost population during the year ending July 1, 2018. 1 So at the time of the address, Longwell didn’t know the area had lost population, but he should have known that the trend of population growth has been slowing, as can be seen in the nearby chart.

What about the population of Wichita city proper, as that is the jurisdiction the mayor was elected to represent? (It’s better to look at the MSA, for a number of reasons. 2 For one, several major “Wichita” employers are not located within the Wichita city limits. Major portions of Spirit Aerosystems, for example, lie outside the city, and the city certainly takes credit for job creation there.)

Wichita and top 100 city population, annual change. Click for larger.
City populations are available through July 1, 2017. 3 From 2011 to 2017, the top 100 cities averaged annual growth of 1.03 percent. For the City of Wichita, the average was 0.29 percent, barely more than one-fourth the rate. (Wichita was the 50th largest city in 2017.) The trendline of growth for Wichita is down, as it is for the top 100 cities in general.

We have to ask: With a population growing much slower than the nation — and declining in the most recent year — what is the future of Wichita?

More importantly: Is Mayor Longwell aware of these statistics, and if so, why does he not recognize them? I hope this isn’t what he means by “embrace the challenges.”


Notes

  1. Weeks, Bob. Wichita population falls; outmigration continues. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/wichita-population-falls-outmigration-continues/.
  2. Weeks, Bob. Wichita metropolitan area population in context. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/wichita-metropolitan-area-population-in-context/.
  3. Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places of 50,000 or More, Ranked by July 1, 2017 Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2017 U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division. Release Date: May 2018

Wichita aerospace manufacturing concentration

Wichita leaders want to diversify the area economy. Has there been progress?

One way to measure concentration of an industry in a location is by the proportion of employment in that industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides employment by industry for metropolitan areas. I’ve gathered the data for the Wichita MSA for two industries: Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing (NAICS code 3364) and all manufacturing. I’ve gathered this data for the Wichita Metropolitan Statistical Area and compare it to total private sector employment. This data is not adjusted for seasonality, as some is available only in that manner.

Click for larger.
Click for larger.

As the charts illustrate, there was a large shift in the two industry’s share of employment around the time of the Great Recession. Since then, the ratios have been more stable, with a slow decline until a small reversal of that trend over the last year.

The chart of employment ratio changes from the same month one year ago confirms: Manufacturing and aerospace employment has grown faster than total private employment in the recent year or so.

Click for larger.

Another way to measure concentration of an industry is through location quotients. The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides these, most notably for counties as part of the Quarterly of Census and Wages. 1 As described by BLS, “Location quotients are useful for studying the composition of jobs in an area relative to the average, or for finding areas that have high concentrations of jobs in certain occupations. As measured here, a location quotient shows the occupation’s share of an area’s employment relative to the national average.” 2

Further: “For example, a location quotient of 2.0 indicates that an occupation accounts for twice the share of employment in the area than it does nationally, and a location quotient of 0.5 indicates the area’s share of employment in the occupation is half the national share.”

This data is available by industry. I’ve gathered data for Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing (NAICS code 3364) for Sedgwick County and present it in a nearby chart.

First, note that the location quotient is large, 30 or more. This means the concentration of workers in this industry in Sedgwick county is over 30 times the concentration nationwide.

Second, the location quotient fell from 2007 through 2014. Since then, it has been steady.

Has the Wichita area diversified its economy? Based on these two measures, the answer is yes. That increased in diversity happened at the same time as a large decline in aviation-related employment, that decline being larger than the decline in all Wichita-area private-sector employment. That was not planned or desired. It was a result of worldwide trends. But since then, concentration in aviation-related employment has changed little, and shows signs of increasing concentration.

From General Aviation Manufacturers Association.


Notes

  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. Available at https://www.bls.gov/cew/datatoc.htm.
  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Using Location Quotients to Analyze Occupational Data. Available at https://www.bls.gov/oes/highlight_location_quotients.htm.

Wichita population falls; outmigration continues

The population of the Wichita MSA fell from 2017 to 2018, and net domestic migration continues at a high level.

New data from the United States Census Bureau shows the Wichita Metropolitan Statistical Area losing population from July 1, 2017, to July 1, 2018.

The population estimate for 2017 was 645,628, and for 2018, 644,888. This is a decline of 740 persons, or -0.11 percent. Population changes in the seven years before 2018 averaged 0.30 percent each year.

The Wichita MSA ranked 89th largest among 383 metro areas, falling from rank 82 as recently as 2011.

Net domestic migration for the Wichita metro area showed a loss of 3,023 persons, or 0.47 percent of the population. This change, on a proportional basis, was 301st among the 383 metro areas. It is less than the loss of 3,235 persons the year before.

Click charts for larger versions.

Wichita MSA population and change from prior year.
Wichita MSA population, percent change from prior year.
Rank of Wichita MSA population.
Rank of Wichita MSA population one-year change.
Wichita MSA net domestic migration.

Wichita jobs and employment, February 2019

For the Wichita metropolitan area in February 2019, jobs are up, the labor force is up, and the unemployment rate is down when compared to the same month one year ago. Seasonal data shows a return to job growth.

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

Total nonfarm employment rose from 295,400 last February to 300,700 this February. That’s an increase of 5,300 jobs, or 1.8 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 1.7 percent.

The unemployment rate in February 2019 was 3.9 percent, down from 4.2 percent from one year ago.

Considering seasonally adjusted data from the household survey, the labor force rose by 1,115 persons (0.4 percent) in February 2019 from January 2019, the number of unemployed persons fell by 64 (-0.5 percent), and the unemployment rate fell from 3.9 percent to 3.8 percent. The number of employed persons not working on farms rose to 300,080 in February from 298,01 the prior month, an increase of 1,179 persons, or 0.4 percent.

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.

Click charts for larger versions.

Wichita and national jobs

Growth of employment in Wichita compared to the nation.

Overall, since 2001 — roughly the end of the Great Recession — Wichita has been gaining jobs, evidence being its trend line above zero in the nearby chart which shows the change in jobs over the same month one year ago. But the line has not always been above zero, indicating months where the Wichita metropolitan area had fewer jobs than the year before.

Since that time, Wichita’s growth rate has almost always been below the nation’s rate, and by no small amount. The state of Kansas has been lagging behind the nation, too.

Click for larger.

Wichita jobs and employment, January 2019

For the Wichita metropolitan area in January 2019, jobs are up, the labor force is up, and the unemployment rate is unchanged when compared to the same month one year ago. Seasonal data shows a slowdown in the rate of job growth and a rising unemployment rate.

Data released this week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the United States Department of Labor, shows a mostly improving employment situation for the Wichita Metropolitan Statistical Area, although some areas are not improving.

Click for larger.

Total nonfarm employment rose from 292,900 last January to 297,900 this January. That’s an increase of 5,000 jobs, or 1.7 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 2.0 percent.

The unemployment rate in January 2019 was 4.1 percent, unchanged from one year ago.

Considering seasonally adjusted data from the household survey, the labor force rose by 739 persons (0.2 percent) in January 2019 from December 2018, the number of unemployed persons rose by 769 6.8 percent), and the unemployment rate rose from 3.6 percent to 3.9 percent. The number of employed persons not working on farms fell to 299,090 in January from 299,120 the prior month, a decrease of 30 persons, or 0.0 percent.

BLS is revising some data and presented this monthly release in a slightly different format than usual.

Click charts for larger versions.

In Wichita, respecting the people’s right to know

The City of Wichita says it values open and transparent government. But the city’s record in providing information and records to citizens is poor, and there hasn’t been much improvement.

The City of Wichita is proud to be an open and transparent governmental agency, its officials say. Former Mayor Carl Brewer often spoke in favor of government transparency. 1

When the city received an award for transparency in 2013, Wichita City Manager Robert Layton said the city was honored. 2

Mayor Jeff Longwell penned a column in which he said, “First off, we want City Hall to be open and transparent to everyone in the community.” And the mayor’s biography on the city’s website says, “Mayor Longwell has championed many issues related to improving the community including government accountability, accessibility and transparency …”

But the reality is different. It shouldn’t be. Nearly four years ago the city expanded its staff by hiring a Strategic Communications Director. When the city announced the new position, it said: “The Strategic Communications Director is the City’s top communications position, charged with developing, managing, and evaluating innovative, strategic and proactive public communications plans that support the City’s mission, vision and goals.”

But there has been little, perhaps no, improvement in the data and information made available to citizens. The Wichita Eagle has editorialized on the lack of sharing regarding the details surrounding the new baseball team. 3

While this is important and a blatant example, there are many things the city could do to improve transparency. Some are very simple.

For example, it is very common for governmental agencies post their checkbooks on their websites. Sedgwick County does, as does the Wichita school district. But not the City of Wichita.

Until a few years ago, Wichita could supply data of only limited utility. What was supplied to me was data in pdf form, and as images, not text. It would be difficult and beyond the capability of most citizens to translate the data to a useful format. Even if someone translated the reports to computer-readable format, I don’t think it would be very useful. This was a serious defect in the city’s transparency efforts.

Now, if you ask the city for this data, you’ll receive data in an Excel spreadsheet. This is an improvement. But: You may be asked to pay for this data. The city says that someday it will make check register data available, but it has been promising that for many years. See Wichita check register for the data and details on the request.

Another example: For several years, the Kansas city of Lawrence has published an economic development report letting citizens know about the activities of the city in this area. The most recent edition may be viewed here.

The Lawrence report contains enough detail and length that an executive summary is provided. This report is the type of information that cities should be providing, but the City of Wichita does not do this.

Example from the Lawrence report. Click for larger.
It’s not like the City of Wichita does not realize the desirability of providing citizens with information. In fact, Wichitans have been teased with the promise of more information in order to induce them to vote for higher taxes. During the campaign for the one cent per dollar Wichita city sales tax in 2014, a city document promised this information regarding economic development spending if the tax passed: “The process will be transparent, with reports posted online outlining expenditures and expected outcomes.” (This is what Lawrence has been doing for several years.)

The city should implement this reporting even though the sales tax did not pass. If it’s good for citizens to have this type of information if the sales tax had passed, it’s good for them to know in any circumstance, because the city (and other overlapping governmental jurisdictions) still spends a lot on economic development.

Why is this information not available? Is the communications staff overwhelmed, with no time to provide this type of information?

During the sales tax campaign Wichita city staff had time to prepare news releases with titles like “City to Compete in Chili Cook-off” and “Jerry Seinfeld Returns to Century II.” Now the city produces headlines like “Wichita Transit to Receive Good Apple Award.”

But if you want to know how the city spends economic development dollars, you won’t find that.

There are other things:

Most of all, the city simply needs to change its attitude. Here’s an example.

Citizen watchdogs need access to records and data. The City of Wichita, however, has created several not-for-profit organizations that are controlled by the city and largely funded by tax money. The three I am concerned with are the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation, Visit Wichita (the former Go Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau), and Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition, now the Greater Wichita Partnership. Each of these agencies refuses to comply with the Kansas Open Records Act, using the reasoning that they are not “public agencies” as defined in the Kansas law that’s designed to provide citizen access to records.

The city backs this interpretation. When legislation was introduced to bring these agencies under the umbrella of the Kansas Open Records Act, cities — including Wichita — protested vigorously, and the legislation went nowhere.

Recently the City of Wichita added a new tax to hotel bills that may generate $3 million per year for the convention and visitors bureau to spend. Unless the city changes its attitude towards citizens’ right to know, this money will be spent in secret.

This attitude has been the policy of the city for a long time. In 2008, Randy Brown, at one time the editorial page editor at the Wichita Eagle wrote this:

I’m fairly well acquainted with Bob Weeks, our extraconservative government watchdog. It’s fair to say that I agree with Weeks no more than one time in every 20 issues. But that one time is crucial to our democracy.

Weeks is dead-on target when he says that conducting the public’s business in secret causes citizens to lose respect for government officials and corrupts the process of democracy (“TIF public hearing was bait and switch,” Dec. 5 Opinion). And that’s what happened when significant 11th-hour changes to the already controversial and questionable tax-increment financing plan for the downtown arena neighborhood were sneaked onto the Wichita City Council’s Tuesday agenda, essentially under cover of Monday evening’s darkness.

This may not have been a technical violation of the Kansas Open Meetings Act, but it was an aggravated assault on its spirit. Among other transgressions, we had a mockery of the public hearing process rather than an open and transparent discussion of a contentious public issue.

The Wichita officials involved should publicly apologize, and the issue should be reopened. And this time, the public should be properly notified.

Randy Brown
Executive director
Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government

A few years later, Brown noticed the attitude had not improved. Although he did not mention him by name, Brown addressed a concern expressed by Wichita City Council Member Pete Meitzner (district 2, east Wichita). He accurately summarized Meitzner’s revealed attitude towards government transparency and open records as “democracy is just too much trouble to deal with.”

I don’t think things have improved.


Notes

  1. For example, in his State of the City address for 2011, Brewer listed as an important goal for the city this: “And we must provide transparency in all that we do.” See https://drive.google.com/open?id=1xgx96BEXALDEgLBRcQdz2Kg0_W5x3e2J.
  2. “The City Council has stressed the importance of transparency for this organization,” City Manager Robert Layton said. “We’re honored to receive a Sunny Award and we will continue to empower and engage citizens by providing information necessary to keep them informed on the actions their government is taking on their behalf.” Wichita City New Release. Available at https://www.wichita.gov/News/Pages/2013-03-18b.aspx.
  3. Wichita Eagle Editorial Board. *Fight for transparency during ‘Sunshine Week’ and year-round.” Available at https://www.kansas.com/article227430494.html.