Joco Opinion

June 24, 2014

Editorial: Jobs are up but pay is down in Johnson County

Job growth in Johnson County traditionally makes up a great chunk of new employment in Kansas. That was the case once again in 2013.

However, the latest figures come with a warning sign regarding workers’ wages.

The federal Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages data show that the average weekly wages for a worker in Johnson County in 2013 fell by 2.1 percent, to $1,022.

That steep decline caused the county to rank as the 307th worst of the largest 335 U.S. counties for the year.

Statewide, wages fell .4 percent.

In more positive news, the number of jobs in Johnson County in 2013 was up 2.5 percent over 2012. That’s according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which releases the employment and wages information.

Johnson County added more than 8,000 jobs, or about 40 percent of the total new employment in Kansas for the year.

The statewide average showed only 1.6 percent growth, lower than the national average of 1.8 percent.

Still, Johnson County’s 2013 growth rate was lower than the 2.7 percent figure it reached in 2012. And the 2013 numbers were measured after deep Kansas income tax cuts kicked in, which were supposed to attract more jobs.

Next door in Wyandotte County — aided by a new Cerner campus — the job growth rate was 3.4 percent in 2013, and weekly wages went up 2.5 percent to $899. That’s still far below the average wage in the Johnson County, though.

Overall, the new figures indicate Johnson County failed to add enough high-paying jobs in 2013 to offset the growth of lower-paying retail and fast-food jobs.

That’s not a recipe for long-term growth for either the county or the state of Kansas.

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