Kansas regained jobs lost in recession but saw shift away from manufacturing, economist says



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TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas has regained the private-sector jobs it lost during the most recent recession while seeing a shift from employment in manufacturing to services, a state economist told a group of Republican Gov. Sam Brownback's advisers Wednesday.

Wages have been rising this year but haven't fully rebounded from the 2007-09 recession when adjusted for inflation, said Tyler Tenbrink, senior economist for the Kansas Department of Labor.

Tenbrink's report on employment and wages came during a meeting of the governor's council of economic advisers. Brownback saw the mix of news as positive.

The conservative governor last month won a tough re-election race after a contentious debate over aggressive personal income tax cuts enacted at his urging in 2012 and 2013 to boost the state's economy. Critics argued the cuts didn't boost growth as much as predicted, and Kansas now faces predicted shortfalls totaling more than $700 million in its current and next budgets.

Tenbrink said the state should continue to see growth in the number of private-sector, non-farm jobs over the next six to 12 months. An index of leading economic indicators compiled for the council — covering items such as commercial truck traffic, commercial property sales and building permits — also suggests growth.

"That's indicating a very strong up-pull, isn't it?" Brownback said.

Tenbrink answered: "Right."

In Kansas, about 1.14 million people held private-sector, non-farm jobs in April 2008, the previous peak, with the Great Recession starting in December 2007. Such employment bottomed out in February 2010 at 1.06 million, eight months after the national recession officially ended. Kansas lost 76,900 jobs, a decline of 6.8 percent.

As of October, such employment was back at 1.14 million.

Of the jobs lost from April 2008 through February 2010, 29,300 were in manufacturing. Tenbrink said the state has regained only 600 of them — replacing them largely with jobs in professional and business services.

Bob Wheeler, a council member and retired CEO for Hills Pet Nutrition Inc., said it's unlikely the lost manufacturing jobs will return.

"Manufacturing companies tightened their belt," he said. "They've become a whole lot more effective and efficient."

Meanwhile, a 12-month moving average, inflation-adjusted hourly wage in Kansas peaked at $22.53 in October 2009 and was at $22.01, or 2.3 percent lower, in October 2014.


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