Bryan Lowry
August 18, 2015 

Kansas lost manufacturing jobs at a time when manufacturing employment grew in the nation as a whole, according a report released by the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors on Tuesday.

Kansas saw a 0.9 percent decline in manufacturing employment between June 2014 and 2015, losing about 1,400 manufacturing jobs. During that same period, the nation saw 1.3 percent growth in manufacturing, adding 160,000 jobs.

“The general aviation sector continues to lag behind (commercial is strong) and manufacturing sector in general is still down from before recession in state,” Dan Lara, deputy secretary of public affairs with Kansas Department of Commerce, said in an e-mail.

The state lost 39,000 manufacturing jobs during the recession and has only gained back about 4,000 of them, Lara said.

As of June, the state has about 162,300 manufacturing jobs, 10.2 percent less than it had 10 years ago.

The report shows the United States grew total nonfarm jobs at a rate of 2.1 percent, while the state gained at a rate of 0.9 percent over the course of a year.

Brownback has repeatedly said that he wants to judge the state’s economy by growth in private-sector jobs rather than total jobs.

Kansas is gaining private-sector jobs at a slower pace than both the region and the nation, the report shows. The state gained 12,700 private-sector jobs between June 2014 and 2015, a 1.1 percent increase.

Six states in the region – Iowa, Colorado, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas – experienced a cumulative private-sector growth rate of 1.6 percent, according to the report.

During that same period, private-sector employment rose by 2.4 percent nationally, with the country adding 2.9 million private sector jobs.

Five years ago, the nation gained private-sector jobs at a rate of 11.4 percent, while the state gained at a rate of 7.8 percent, according to the report.

Lara said in an e-mail that Kansas’ slower job growth rate is because “our employment is at full strength (under 4 percent) in many areas of state. So, yes (we) will grow slower than other states with higher unemployment.”

Annie McKay, executive director of the Kansas Center for Economic Growth, a Topeka think tank, said “the key piece to remember is that those states around us didn’t enact unprecedented tax cuts to grow their economies.”
“Their economies are growing because they’re recovering from the Great Recession,” she said. “Meanwhile, ours is headed in the wrong direction.”

Brownback established the council in 2011 to track the health of the state’s economy and advise him on economic policy. It includes leaders from various industries. The economic data in council reports is culled from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Kansas Department of Labor.

The governor’s spokeswoman, Eileen Hawley, was largely dismissive of the report.

“While the report compares June over a number of years, it is only a comparison of one month in a year, not a look at the totality of private sector job growth,” Hawley said in an e-mail.

“Since enacting the tax plan, Kansas has out-performed its neighboring states in terms of private sector job growth, with the exception of Colorado. …We are seeing consistent growth in private sector jobs and faster private hourly wage growth than the nation and all neighboring states, with the exception of Colorado,” Hawley said.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, called Hawley’s comments laughable.

“His own people put this report out and yet they still cannot acknowledge that the numbers are bad,” Hensley said. “And they’re bad in almost every comparison case that you could make. … It’s what we’ve become used to. They put a spin on everything, even their own numbers.”

The report notes that annual private wage is increasing at a faster rate in the nation and region than in Kansas. Private employees in Kansas saw their wages grow by an average of $1,232, while workers in neighboring states saw an average pay bump of $1,397 and American workers as a whole saw an average increase of $1,594.

McKay said economic data has consistently shown the state is “not keeping pace with the region or the country.”

“It doesn’t matter which way you slice it,” she said.

Read more from the Wichita Eagle here.

Lisa OwenWICHITA EAGLE: Kansas lost manufacturing jobs in past year, while U.S. gained