Yael T. Abouhalkah

Yael T. Abouhalkah: Kansas job growth slows to a crawl under Gov. Sam Brownback

Gasoline prices have fallen about 30 percent since this time in 2014, which has depressed the oil industry and its jobs in Kansas.
Gasoline prices have fallen about 30 percent since this time in 2014, which has depressed the oil industry and its jobs in Kansas. along@kcstar.com

Those whoops of celebration today in Topeka come from believers in Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax-cut policy as they review the latest employment reports.

Overall, Kansas gained 4,900 nonfarm jobs in September over August, according to federal and state figures.

But ignore the one-month jump — as Brownback supporters constantly urge Kansans to do during bad news times — and the long-term trend for the state unfortunately is pretty bleak.

▪ The state has added a total of just 8,700 nonfarm jobs in the previous 12 months.

That’s a slim growth rate of .6 percent, tying for the eighth worst rate in the country for that period. The United States over those 12 months has grown by 2 percent, or three times faster.

This is the fifth straight month Kansas has been in the bottom 11 of percentage growth in adding jobs in the nation.

This also goes (almost) without saying: Kansas is far off the pace of adding an average of 2,000 new jobs a month, which Brownback on the campaign trail last year pledged to try to accomplish in his second term.

▪ This is the fourth worst start to a year in new job gains during Brownback’s nearly five years in office.

Since January, Kansas employment has grown by only 6,400 people in 2015.

The comparable figures were 13,500 added jobs through September in 2014, 16,000 in 2013, 4,500 in 2012 and 7,300 in his first year in office in 2011.

▪ This is the worst September-to-September period under Brownback’s reign.

That growth of 8,700 jobs in the last year is under the more than 13,000 created in each of the previous four years during that 12-month stretch.

Here’s the No. 1 fact to keep in mind while looking at all these numbers.

Brownback’s income tax cuts took effect in January 2013. Logically, as more small businesses race to Kansas to create jobs — as the governor had promised and hoped would happen — employment should be getting stronger over time. That’s especially true since jobs have been added in most states around the country for many months.

And yet, as noted above, 2015 so far has been the worst year for employment since the tax cuts took effect.

Almost none of these numbers bodes well for the future, especially since the tax cuts have sapped the state of needed revenues to invest in better basic services that could have been used to attract residents.