Tim Carpenter
August 22, 2015

The administration of Gov. Sam Brownback generates a quarterly report of Kansas’ economic trends to assist in formation of state policy capable of inspiring business and job growth.

The latest 35-page edition was delivered last week to Brownback and members of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors, but don’t look for “Indicators of the Kansas Economy” on the council’s website.

The council stopped sharing online so-called IKE reports during the governor’s 2014 re-election campaign. The end coincided with declaration by the council’s executive director that the report was “the subject of careless scrutiny. Some have taken the short-term numbers in this report out of context and misconstrued them” to suggest Kansas was stuck in a weak economy.

After placing nine consecutive IKE reports on the council’s website in 2012, 2013 and 2014, the decision was made to withhold from online users all subsequent statistical troves.

Matt Keith, who works on council affairs at the Kansas Department of Commerce, said IKE reports were dropped from the site because too many people perceived the document as a comprehensive overview of the Kansas economy. In reality, he said, IKE is a snapshot of indicators properly consumed with other economic reports shared with the council.

“We haven’t been posting the IKE reports because we felt that the volume and structure of information makes the report confusing as a stand-alone document,” Keith said.

He said a copy of the August quarterly summary could be obtained by the public upon request.

Annie McKay, executive director of the Kansas Center for Economic Growth in Topeka, said there might be another explanation why recent IKE documents could no longer be studied with a click of a computer mouse.

“We’re not keeping pace with the region or the country,” said McKay, a skeptic that Brownback’s repeal of business income taxes can make the state’s economy surge. “This trend is going to continue as long as we stay on this path.”

IKE drills into indicators that include personal income, unemployment, wages, business filings, oil production, sales tax collections, consumer prices, gross state product and population.

Stan Ahlerich, executive director of the governor’s economic council, said a review of facts revealed the state’s economy was moving in the right direction.

He said the council measured Kansas against five regional states, and each of those states differed in geography, size, industry and economic niche. No single public policy reform can heal wounds inflicted by a national recession that cost Kansas nearly 80,000 jobs from May 2008 to June 2010, he said.

“There is no one magic bullet,” Ahlerich told council members during their meeting in Manhattan. “It’s multifaceted. Very diversified. It’s complicated. It takes time.”

In terms of the IKE report for August, Ahlerich said per capita personal income grew, on a percentage basis, faster in 2014 than the average of six Midwest states. Gross state product in Kansas climbed from 2013 to 2014, he said.

A bright spot was an increase of 1,000 from 2013 to 2014 in the number of private businesses formed in Kansas, he said.

“This is a big number. This is good for Kansas,” he said. “This is exactly what we have to have. We have to have churn. We have to have these business startups. We know with startups, a lot of them fail.”

He said Kansas lost 30,000 manufacturing jobs during the recession but had recovered only 4,000. Many of these jobs might be lost forever, because businesses turned to technology and modernization to replace workers, he said.

A manufacturing index drawn from state and federal sources for the region that includes Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma, Colorado, Missouri and Arkansas showed that Kansas led the group in 2008. Each of these states lost manufacturing jobs in the deep recession, but that sector’s recovery in Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado and Oklahoma exceeds that in Kansas.

“It takes some time. We have to have some patience,” Ahlerich said.

Here is a snapshot of 10 indicators in the latest IKE report presented to the governor’s council:

  • Kansas population from 2013 to 2014, up 0.3 percent; Midwest region and U.S., both up 0.7 percent.
  • Kansas gross state product from 2013 to 2014, up 3.2 percent; region, up 3.8 percent; U.S., up 3.9 percent.
  • Kansas personal income 2014 to first quarter 2015, up 1.4 percent; region, up 2.2 percent; U.S., up 2.7 percent.
  • Kansas per-capita personal income 2013 to 2014, up 2.5 percent; region, up 2.1 percent; U.S., up 3 percent.
  • Kansas building permits 2014 to 2015, up 14 percent; region, up 9.7 percent; U.S., up 45.3 percent.
  • Kansas nonfarm employment 2014 to 2015, up 0.9 percent; region, up 1.4 percent; U.S., up 2.1 percent.
  • Kansas private-sector employment 2014 to 2015, up 1.1 percent; region, up 1.6 percent; U.S., up 2.4 percent.
  • Kansas manufacturing employment 2014 to 2015, down 0.9 percent; region, down, 0.1 percent; U.S., up 1.3 percent.
  • Kansas unemployment rate from 2014 to 2015, down 4 percent; region, down 8.5 percent; U.S., down 12.7 percent.
  • Kansas private business establishment 2013 to 2014, Kansas up 1.3 percent; region, up 1.6 percent; U.S., up 2.1 percent.

Read more from the Topeka Capital Journal here.

KendraTOPEKA CAPITAL JOURNAL: Kansas governor’s council drops online cloak on economic report