Stunning job losses in Kansas undermine Brownback’s re-election plan

06/26/2014 6:18 PM

06/26/2014 6:24 PM

This is not good news for Kansas or for Gov. Sam Brownback’s re-election campaign, but facts are facts:

The state has actually lost jobs over the last six months, according to the recently released May total nonfarm employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Only four other states in the entire nation — Illinois, New Jersey, Virginia and Wyoming — have suffered a similar fate.

This stunning and disturbing fact about the Kansas jobs situation further undermines Brownback’s contention that the deep income tax cuts he and the Legislature approved in 2012 would act like a job magnet for Kansas.

They haven’t, even while slashing tax revenues far more than the state had estimated.

Here are the surprising jobs numbers. You can bet that Democrat Paul Davis, Brownback’s likely November opponent, will use this kind of information to point out the problems in the governor’s economic strategy.

In November of 2013, Kansas had 1,384,900 employees on the total nonfarm report.

In May of 2014, that number had fallen to an estimated 1,383,300 employees.

That’s a loss of 1,600 jobs statewide.

So why pick November? Because that’s the month Kansas had reached its highest employment since the start of the recession in late 2008. Indeed, at that point in late 2013, Kansas was still trending upward in piling on new jobs. But that’s no longer happening.

True, the loss of 1,600 jobs is a relatively small downturn.

Here’s the big catch: 45 other states have done better, sometimes far better, than Kansas has in creating new jobs in the last half year.

I looked at similar information for nearby states, and found that all have grown in employment over that six-month stretch.

Colorado is up 41,000 jobs.

Missouri is up 15,400 jobs.

Oklahoma is up 13,800 jobs.

Iowa is up 5,700 jobs.

Arkansas is up 5,100 jobs.

Nebraska is up 3,400 jobs.

This is the second underwhelming report on the Kansas jobs market in less than two months.

In early May, The Star reviewed job growth in Kansas, nearby states and the rest of America.

The conclusion: Even granting the accuracy of Brownback’s claim that the state had added roughly 50,000 jobs since he took office in 2011, the percentage of Kansas’ growth trailed the national average.

In addition, Kansas fell behind Colorado, Oklahoma, Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri in the percentage of job growth. It was ahead only of Arkansas over that roughly three-and-a-half-year stretch.

There’s no cherry picking of numbers going on here. I was mildly surprised to see these facts jump out at me in poring over the most recent reports.

Yet all of these are apples-to-apples comparisons.

While Brownback and his supporters certainly can say their tax experiment will take more time to work, most other states continue to race ahead of Kansas.

To reach Yael T. Abouhalkah, call 816-234-4887 or send email to abouhalkah@kcstar.com. Twitter @YaelTAbouhalkah.

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