On April 17, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback sent out the news on Twitter, Facebook and other media: 50,000 new jobs had been created in the state since he had taken office.
Close enough. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics total nonfarm employment chart for Kansas showed almost 46,000 jobs were added from January 2011 through March 2014. This is the same chart the Brownback administration used in April to tout the state’s job growth.
The close attention paid to jobs is part of the Brownback mantra that he deserves re-election because the state is on the rebound and the large tax cuts the Republican-controlled Legislature approved in 2012 are working to boost employment.
But upon closer scrutiny, the figures aren’t that impressive.
The Star compared the Kansas employment statistics with those of six neighboring states as well as the U.S. average. We used the Bureau of Labor Statistics nonfarm employment data, which cover the large majority of jobs in America.
One key takeaway is to look at the percentage of job growth from January 2011 through March 2014:
• Colorado up 8.2 percent (183,000 more jobs)
• Oklahoma up 5.6 percent (88,000 jobs)
• U.S. average up 5.5 percent.
• Iowa up 4.2 percent (62,000 jobs)
• Nebraska up 4.0 percent (38,000 jobs)
• Missouri up 3.7 percent (97,000 jobs)
Kansas up 3.4 percent (46,000 jobs)
• Arkansas up 2.2 percent (25,000 jobs)
Keep in mind that the rapid growth in Kansas and all of these states came after a recession that sapped millions of jobs out of the U.S. economy.
Kansas, for instance,
lost 58,000 jobs
in 2009 alone. Even after four years of growth since the recovery started in 2010, the state is still below its high water mark of jobs in mid-2008. But Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska and Oklahoma all have more jobs than ever.
So how has the job market changed after those aggressive tax cuts in Kansas, which went into effect in 2013?
Brownback in July of 2012 had predicted, “Our new pro-growth tax policy will be like a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy.”
However, the promised rapid addition of jobs has not occurred. Using federal data, here are the job growth rates from January 2013 through March 2014:
• Colorado up 3.2 percent
• U.S. average up 2.0 percent
• Missouri up 1.7 percent
• Oklahoma up 1.7 percent
Kansas up 1.4 percent
• Iowa up 1.4 percent
• Arkansas up 1.1 percent
• Nebraska up 1.1 percent
Kansas still isn’t on par with the national average or with Missouri, where legislators just last week passed their own tax-cut bill, partly to “keep up” with Kansas.
The federal information confirms the importance of employment growth in Johnson County for the rest of Kansas. Since January 2011, the county has accounted for more than 50 percent of the total new jobs in the state.
Brownback and his supporters have their bias: They still contend lower taxes will bring in more businesses. Yet the cuts are draining revenue needed to provide high-quality schools and public services that attract businesses, setting up alarming possibilities of annual deficits and deep budget cuts to come.
Meanwhile, the unbiased numbers show the governor’s economic plan is not helping Kansas keep up with most of its neighbors, much less pull ahead of them.