Gov. Sam Brownback loves boasting about the extremely low unemployment rate in Kansas, as he did when his state’s December rate was announced last week.
But what does that fact really mean?
The governor gets the “silent treatment” in this short video I’ve worked up to explain the situation.
Here are more details on the issue.
When it comes to people actually being employed, Kansas tied for the 9th worst rate of job growth from December 2014 to December 2015, according to new federal Bureau of Labor Statistics released this week.
It was a puny annual gain of 0.5 percent.
That’s a huge problem for Kansans and for Brownback, who has maintained since 2012 that the individual income tax cuts he pushed through the Legislature were going to be a jobs bonanza for Kansas. They haven’t been.
But here is the excuse he now trots out for that sad fact. As he claimed Wednesday, having a low unemployment rate makes it more difficult to sustain job growth.
“It gets tough the lower your unemployment rate gets...,” Brownback said.
However, facts from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show the Republican governor is flat-out wrong about that.
It turns out that nine of the 11 states with December unemployment rates lower than or equal to the Kansas rate created jobs faster than the Sunflower State over the December 2014 to December 2015 period.
Here are all the numbers for those nine states:
▪ Nebraska: 2.9 percent unemployment, job growth of 1.4 percent
▪ South Dakota: 2.9 percent unemployment, job growth of 2.2 percent
▪ Hawaii: 3.2 percent unemployment, job growth of 2.5 percent
▪ Iowa, 3.4 percent unemployment, job growth of 1.6 percent
▪ Colorado, 3.5 percent unemployment, job growth of 1.9 percent
▪ Minnesota, 3.5 percent unemployment, job growth of 1.5 percent
▪ Utah, 3.5 percent unemployment, job growth of 3.2 percent
▪ Vermont, 3.6 percent unemployment, job growth of 0.8 percent
▪ Idaho, 3.9 percent unemployment, job growth of 4.4 percent
One of the two other states on that list was New Hampshire. It had a better unemployment rate than Kansas at 3.1 percent and still matched Kansas’ lackluster 0.5 percent job growth record.
Finally, the state with the country’s lowest unemployment rate — North Dakota — also had the worst record on jobs, with a minus 4.0 percent “growth” rate for the year.
(Missouri’s unemployment rate stood at 4.4 percent in December, while its annual jobs growth was 0.9 percent.)
Simply having a stellar unemployment rate doesn’t mean your state is a jobs magnet, as North Dakota clearly shows.
Still, Brownback will continue to promote the low unemployment rate in Kansas.
His political critics correctly will keep pointing out that, just because almost everyone who wants a job has one, does not mean the state is automatically adding actual jobs.
Rep. Annie Kuether, a Topeka Democrat, teased the governor this week by saying “people are leaving the state of Kansas” because of his policies.
If true, the unemployment rate may keep going down in Kansas but the number of people employed won’t rocket upward.