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Counting jobs in Wichita

Since the start of the pandemic, has the employment situation in Wichita bounced back?

There is more than one way to evaluate jobs and employment. Depending on the method, the Wichita Metropolitan Statistical Area has either nearly recovered from the pandemic or is still behind.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the United States Department of Labor, publishes two series of employment data that are widely followed.

The Current Population Survey (CPS) counts people who are working and those who are not. It known as the household survey. The Current Employment Statistics (CES) program counts jobs at employers. It is known as the employer survey. There are essential differences between the two, such as persons counted as employed once even though they may hold multiple jobs. That’s in the household survey. In the employer survey, a person with two jobs counts twice, once for each job.

There are other differences. My article Visualization: Employment measures explains and offers examples of the differences.

The differences between the two surveys can be significant. In the nearby table, I show data from March 2020 (right before the pandemic) and May 2021, the most current data for metropolitan areas.

You can see that based on the employer survey counting jobs, Wichita has fewer now: 19,400 fewer or 6.3 percent. But counting working people from the household survey, the loss is less: 4,628 people or 1.5 percent.

Which is the correct answer? Neither of these measures is incorrect. They’re just counting different things.

In these examples from my interactive visualization of Wichita employment data, click for larger versions.

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