Kansas City: This is a pretty good time for job hunters but tough for employers

The Kansas City metropolitan area is a better-than-average place to be a job hunter right now, but it’s a difficult place for employers to get the talent they want to hire.

A new report issued Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said the area registered a low unemployment rate of 3.9 percent in December, compared to a national average of 4.5 percent on the same non-seasonally adjusted basis.

A second report, also released Wednesday, said there were 1.15 job hunters for every one job opening advertised online in the metro area. That November rate (the most recent available) put Kansas City among the nation’s favorable markets for job seekers, according to The Conference Board.

That ratio means there may be little competition for a job in the Kansas City area compared to a market that has two or more unemployed job seekers for every posted job.

While both sets of numbers indicate that people who want to work are likely to land some kind of job — though admittedly not at the pay or location they prefer — the reports also indicate headaches for employers who want well-qualified or experienced candidates to fill openings.

At a time of so-called “full-employment” there often is a mismatch between the skills of job hunters and the nature of the job openings.

Kansas City’s rise to become a tight labor market has been slow but steady. According to the labor department, the Kansas City area’s nonfarm establishment payrolls grew just one percent from December 2016 to December 2017.

Despite general job growth, two local occupational sectors — information, and the trade, transportation and utilities sectors — shed jobs. But those job losses were superceded by growth in multiple sectors, including financial activities, professional and business services, education and health services.

The Conference Board’s Help Wanted Online analysis found the greatest number of Kansas City job postings in the professional and related business services sector — 13,349 openings posted at an average hourly wage of $31.02.

Other calculations: management, business and financial jobs, 5,259 postings at an average hourly wage of $42.72; service jobs, 4,670 postings at a $10.61 average; sales and office jobs, 8,169 postings at a $17.96 average; construction and maintenance jobs, 2,530 postings at a $22.99 average; and production and transportation jobs, 3,926 postings at a $17.57 average.

It’s important to note that these are snapshot numbers that change over time.

Diane Stafford: 816-234-4359, @kcstarstafford