Kansas adds government jobs, loses private employment in April

Katie R. Ochoa

Kansas already ranks as the second-most over-governed state in the nation, behind only Wyoming as the state with the most public employees per capita, and the April jobs report from the Kansas Department of Labor shows that trend continuing.  Kansas added 600 government jobs in April but lost 100 private-sector jobs.

According to the Ganon Evans, with Kansas Policy Institute’s Center for Entrepreneurial Government, while Kansas has a low unemployment rate — 2.4% — the labor participation rate is well below its January 2020 pre-pandemic participation rate of 66.9%.  Having a lower participation rate, in this case, means the unemployment rate is artificially low because some people have stopped looking for work.

The Sentinel is owned by the Kansas Policy Institute.

“Kansas’s low unemployment rate is great news and is a sign that people who are going out in search of a job can find them,” Evans wrote in a piece for KPI. “The issue is with job creation. Kansas is still 24,500 private-sector jobs below its pre-pandemic levels, while at least 11 other states like Arizona, Utah, and Idaho have all exceeded their pre-pandemic levels and continue to grow.”

At the pace private jobs have been added since the beginning of 2021, Kansas won’t return to pre-pandemic employment until sometime in 2023.

Recession fears and inflation may be slowing the recovery from the pandemic; the first quarter of 2022 saw the U.S. Economy shrink by 1.4%. A recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth in one year and some economists are concerned a recession is already underway.

Kansas ranks in the bottom half of states in economic performance

As The Sentinel reported earlier this year, Kansas ranks 34th in overall economic performance in the U.S. according to the American Legislative Exchange Council’s annual “Rich States, Poor States,” report.

Factors hampering the state’s economic performance, according to the report, include a top marginal corporate income tax rate of 7% — 28th highest in the nation and the highest on mature businesses. Kansas also has one of the highest property tax burdens in the nation, ranking 33, one of the highest sales tax burdens in the country, and the 49th highest number of public employees per capita in the United States, with more than 700 public employees per 10,000 full-time equivalent private employees.

Kansas Policy Institute CEO Dave Trabert said at the time that the state’s next-to-last ranking on public employment has a great deal to do with the state’s heavy property and sales tax burdens.

“Kansas is massively over-governed,” he said. “Just the extra local government employees cost taxpayers more than $2 billion in extra taxes compared to the national average of per-capita government employment. That equates to more than a third of all property tax.”

Governor Kelly, likewise, ranks in the bottom half of all governors

ALEC also annually issues a report card for the nation’s governors, and Kansas Governor Laura Kelly ranks 27th out of 50.

Among the issues in Kelly’s performance cited in the report was a sharp increase in spending as a percentage of Gross State Product.

The state budget in 2010 was roughly 11% of GSP and began to drop rapidly over the next few years to a low of just over 9% in 2018. It had begun to rise slightly just before Kelly’s inauguration but spiked back to nearly the 2010 level within a year of Kelly taking office.

Kelly’s low marks on economic performance were in part thanks to low educational achievement — Kelly ranked 39th on education quality — and ranking as the 11th most moved-from state in the nation.

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