The Wichita Mayor on employment

On a televised call-in show, Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell is proud of the performance of the city in growing jobs.

On the inaugural episode of Call the Mayor on KPTS, Wichita’s public television station, Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell said this:

Three years ago the biggest concern in this community is we need jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs. And today, we need people. And so keeping Cargill in Wichita and seeing Spirit grow and seeing companies invest is far different than what we had just three years ago when people were so concerned about the opportunity to find meaningful employment in our city.

What the mayor said sounds good. Now. here are statistics from Bureau of Labor Statistics, civilian labor force and nonfarm employment by metropolitan area, seasonally adjusted, for the Wichita Metropolitan Statistical Area:

May 2015
Civilian labor force: 311,294
Employment: 296,249
Unemployment rate: 4.8 percent

May 2018
Civilian labor force: 306,574 (down by 1.5 percent)
Employment: 295,012 (down by 0.42 percent)
Unemployment rate: 3.8 percent (down by 1.0 percentage point, or 20.8 percent)

These are statistics from the Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) data set, also known as the household survey.

Here are some other statistics, again from Bureau of Labor Statistics, state and area employment, seasonally adjusted, for the Wichita Metropolitan Statistical Area:

May 2015
Employment: 295,500

May 2018
Employment: 298,600 (up by 1.0 percent)

These are statistics from the Current Employment Statistics (CES) data set, sometimes called payroll data.

These are two different sets of data. One shows employment rising, and one shows it declining. The difference comes from the fact that one set of data comes from households, and the other from employers. For a full explanation of the data and how there can be these differences, see Visualization: Metro area employment and unemployment.

The important thing is that Mayor Longwell said, in a roundabout way, that there are plenty of jobs in Wichita, and there are not enough workers to fill them.

If there are not enough workers in Wichita, it’s because the labor force (the number of people working plus those looking for work) shrank over the time period the mayor mentioned. That’s why there are not enough people to meet Wichita’s job growth (such as it is).

And while the number of jobs in Wichita rose in the employer survey, it rose by 1.0 percent over three years. The same statistic for the entire United States rose by 5.1 percent over the same period. This doesn’t seem like much of an accomplishment, Wichita growing jobs at a rate one-fifth of the nation.

But Mayor Longwell is proud. Good for him.

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