TOPEKA, Kansas — Private-sector employment in Kansas grew more quickly last year than previously reported and at its highest annual rate since 2007, the state Department of Labor reported Friday.
The department said the number of people employed in private-sector nonfarm jobs was 1.9 percent higher on average each month than in 2013. The previous figure was 1.3 percent, but labor officials said the revised figure was based on more comprehensive federal data.
Before 2007, the last time Kansas saw private-sector job growth as robust was 1998, though it did hit 1.8 percent in 2012, the department said.
"It's a strong growth rate," said Tyler Tenbrink, a senior labor economist for the department.
The release of the revised figure comes amid a debate about the benefits of aggressive personal income tax cuts enacted in 2012 and 2013 at Republican Gov. Sam Brownback's urging in an effort to stimulate the economy. The state dropped its top rate 29 percent and exempted 281,000 business owners and 53,000 farmers altogether.
Brownback and the Republican-dominated Legislature now must close a projected budget shortfall of nearly $600 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1 that arose after the tax cuts. But Brownback traveled to Missouri this week to tout the Kansas reductions to GOP lawmakers there and suggested Kansas' financial problems are not as dire as his critics have portrayed them.
The revised job-growth figures also were released three days after two groups that have been critical of the governor's policies released a report saying the state's economy is "performing poorly." The Kansas Center for Economic Growth and Kansas Economic Progress Council cited data compiled by the governor's own economic advisers, showing the state lagging six others in multiple economic measurements since 2011, including growth in private employment.
"We're still behind everybody else. Our job growth is pitiful," Kansas Democratic Party Chairwoman Joan Wagnon said after Friday's revised report. "I'm not believing anything that comes out of the Department of Labor anymore."
An average of about 1.14 million Kansas residents held private-sector jobs each month in 2014. The department previously calculated the figure was 14,000 higher than in 2013, based on preliminary data.
But federal officials provide more comprehensive data after about six months, and it showed Kansas having an average of 20,800 more private-sector workers each month, compared with 2013.
The department also released preliminary data for January showing that about 17,100 more Kansas residents held private-sector jobs that month than in January 2014. The growth was about 1.5 percent. Government employment also was slightly higher in January than in January 2014.
Brownback and his aides have touted the state's low unemployment rate as evidence that his policies have bolstered the state's economy. The state Department of Labor said the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained at 4.2 percent in January, significantly better than the 4.7 percent reported in January 2014.
The state's jobless rate in January compared to a national rate of 5.7 percent, but data showed that Kansas' rate has typically been lower over the past 20 years.
Kansas Department of Labor report: http://1.usa.gov/1mmpS2e
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