Much has been made of newly released Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) numbers pointing to a slight decline in private-sector job growth in Kansas from March to April. Kansas did experience a 0.3% decline, but the small decline is not unique to Kansas. Regional neighbors Missouri and Nebraska faced similar monthly declines of 0.2%, and ten other states across the nation also had small declines in April, including job-powerhouse Texas. Oklahoma grew by 0.3%, and while Colorado posted growth of 0.1%, that small gain was a rebound from an unusual decline in March. The Kansas decline is pretty clearly part of a national and regional slowdown.
Yet, as previous monthly jobs updates on this blog have highlighted, looking solely at job growth in month-to-month snapshots is problematic. The numbers released each month are preliminary and are thus subject to fluctuations and subsequent revisions months—and, in some cases, years—after the fact.
A more reliable and comprehensive picture of job growth comes from looking at a year-to-date average number of jobs in 2015 for each state and comparing it to that state’s 2014 average over the same period of time. Kansas, for example, achieved private-sector job growth of 1.4% when comparing its average number of jobs from January-April 2015 to its average number of jobs from January to April 2014. This growth rate bested Nebraska (1.2%), tied Missouri (also 1.4%), nearly tied Oklahoma (1.5%), and trailed Colorado (3.3%).
Contrary to frequent “sky is falling” narratives tying tax reform in Kansas to lagging job growth, Kansas has actually become much more competitive with its income-taxing peers in the two years post-tax reform than it was prior to reform. Pre-tax reform, in the fourteen years from 1998 to 2012, private-sector job growth in Kansas was just 2.2%, or 61.01% of the growth its income-taxing peer states achieved in that timeframe. In the two years post tax-reform, from 2012 to 2014, comparisons of annual jobs averages from 2012 and 2014 show that Kansas has experienced private-sector job growth of 3.47%, or 86.21% of the growth of its income-taxing peers.
Check back for next month’s update.