Poor job growth still afflicts Kansas despite Sam Brownback’s tax cuts

Gov. Sam Brownback doesn’t acknowledge his state’s dismal job growth.
Gov. Sam Brownback doesn’t acknowledge his state’s dismal job growth. The Associated Press

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and his advisers want to create an alternate reality when it comes to job growth in the state.

They keep throwing out misleading numbers to the public while trying to cloud Kansas’ mediocre jobs picture.

Consider what happened earlier this week, after Democrat Paul Davis gained national attention when more than 100 current and former Kansas GOP officials endorsed his efforts to defeat Brownback this fall.

The Brownback campaign shot back with the oft-repeated claim that the Republican governor has created plenty of private sector jobs since he took office in January 2011. It was the latest effort to promote large tax cuts he signed as a way to re-energize the state’s economy.

The facts are far more sobering for the governor.

On Friday, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics released the latest employment figures for all 50 states — the same ones the Brownback administration uses repeatedly for its “we’re getting better” press releases.

Overall, the number of private sector jobs added since 2011 in Kansas crept up to 55,100. However, that statistic loses a lot of shine once you factor in the 8,300 jobs lost in local and state government ranks since 2011. Those are people who may no longer have steady income to pay the rent, buy food, pay taxes and contribute to the Kansas economy.

Fact is, Kansas has actually gained only 46,800 total jobs since early 2011.

So how does that more realistic figure — which the Brownback team does not promote — compare to the rest of the country?

Using the federal agency’s data, The Star compiled percentages of seasonally adjusted, nonfarm total job growth for Kansas, its four bordering states, a few other Midwestern states, Texas (no income tax), New York (extremely high income tax), and the U.S. average from January 2011 through June 30, 2014.

Texas, 10.5 percent

Colorado, 9.2 percent

Oklahoma, 6.5 percent

U.S. average, 6.1 percent

Iowa, 5.0 percent

New York, 4.8 percent

Missouri, 4.1 percent

Nebraska, 3.8 percent

Kansas, 3.5 percent

Arkansas, 1.9 percent

Kansas has had one of the nation’s poorest rates of employment growth during Brownback’s time in office, including since the first tax cuts took effect in 2013.

The new Bureau of Labor Statistics report also reveals that Kansas — like eight other states — had fewer jobs at the end of June than it did seven months ago. This fact undermines the Brownback mantra that the state’s economy is gaining steam in 2014.

But focusing on actual, total job growth doesn’t sit well with the Brownback administration. In its fantasy world, for example, those thousands of lost government jobs don’t really matter.

As Secretary of Labor Lana Gordon wrote to The Star earlier this month, “The size and scope of government are not true indicators of a state’s prosperity or its economic strength. Subtracting the total number of government workers from the total number of nonfarm jobs in Kansas yields the total number of private sector jobs — and a much clearer picture of the state of our economy.”

This is nonsense. Subtracting part of the total employment numbers doesn’t get a “clearer picture” of anything. It generates a skewed view of the world, using cherry-picked statistics.

We’re not going to respect that game.

But, just for amusement, let’s follow the argument. We re-figured all the numbers the way the Brownback administration wants. So here are the states in order of percentages of seasonally adjusted, private sector job growth from January 2011 through June this year.

Texas (12.9 percent), Colorado (10.2 percent), Oklahoma (8.1 percent), U.S. average (7.6 percent), New York (6.5 percent), Iowa (5.3 percent), Kansas (5.1 percent for its 55,100 added jobs), Nebraska (4.8 percent), Missouri (4.4 percent) and Arkansas (2.6 percent).

Again, Kansas doesn’t even rise to the national average in using just the part of the employment picture that Brownback favors.

By the way, several other states also have trimmed local and state government employment, yet still surged ahead of Kansas in private sector jobs. For good measure, the number of government and private sector jobs have grown in states like Colorado, Oklahoma and Iowa.

With good reason, Brownback doesn’t emphasize his state’s dismal ranking when it comes to creating new payroll.

But as time goes on, Davis and other critics are gaining ample ammunition to attack the governor’s misguided reliance on tax cuts to spur economic growth.