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Economic growth is a marathon, not a sprint

economic growth

Most people are familiar with economic growth through monthly job announcements: quippy briefs that laud/condemn politicians when growth is positive/negative but largely exist to grind some particular political axe.  But, that election-year politicking shouldn’t hide what are important metrics to review. The key is reviewing the entire book, not just a (partisan) chapter in time. Here’s a basic read on Kansas’s economic growth over this last month, as well as where it stands compared to other states in the long run.

Anyone can access data on Kansas’s monthly economic growth from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS releases data for the previous month on the third Friday of every month. So, on May 17th, there was a release for April 2024.

In April, Kansas gained 1,700 private-sector jobs, representing an increase of 0.1% of Kansas’s existing 1.2 million private-sector jobs. If this seems small, it is: from April 2023 to 2024, half of the twelve months had a net gain or loss of jobs that was less than 1,000. The largest net gain or loss was 5,400 jobs added between May and June 2023. Below is a graph of Kansas’s job growth since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Compared to other states, Kansas’s monthly private-sector job gain was less than or equal to that of 25 other states. In terms of growth from April 2023 to 2024, 20 states had growth rates greater than Kansas’s, and Kansas had a growth rate equal to that of 22 states.

Kansas’s unemployment rate ticked by a tenth of a percentage point from 2.7% to 2.8%. This was because Kansas businesses only employed 24 more people, but 1,273 people became unemployed. Since April 2023, Kansas’s unemployment rate has bumped around 2.8%. However, Kansas’s labor force participation rate – that is, the number of people either employed or unemployed relative to the state’s entire population – has decreased by .7 percentage points to 66.1%. What that means is that in April 2023, 66.8% of Kansas’s population was either working or seeking employment, but that number has decreased for a variety of reasons.

That’s slightly alarming as it shows that the number of people filling Kansas’s jobs relative to its population. It’s hard to specifically say why this is: there could be more people retiring, or people stopping their job search.

Long-term economic growth

Since 1998, so obviously across different political parties in the Governor’s Mansion, Kansas has continually lagged behind other states in growth, which makes it even more important that the state enact reforms to catch up. For instance, according to the BLS,  Kansas had a growth job rate of 10.6% compared to the 50-State Total of 25.4%. The state ranked 41st compared to its others. Wage growth has also been low: Kansas had a growth rate of 133% compared to the 50-State Total of 173%, thus ranking the state as 40th in the country.

GOP growth was 172% compared to a 50-State Total of 190%, thus ranking 30th. This is better than the growth rate for private-sector jobs and wages. Kansas’s current administration has set GDP as one of its primary targets for economic growth. Governor Kelly has widely advertised her work in using subsidies to attract megacorporations. GDP growth is a helpful estimate of economic growth, but when job and wage growth is low, it’s a sign that ordinary workers and families may be struggling while larger companies benefit from subsidies moving their business to Kansas instead of creating it. Kansas’s trend of doling out subsidies means that the GDP number for the state grows, but ordinary families are left out of tax relief, let alone a growing economic pie, and instead are left footing the bill for subsidies to others.