For the Wichita metropolitan area in December 2021, the unemployment rate fell, as did the number of jobs.
Data released yesterday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the United States Department of Labor, shows a declining employment situation in the Wichita Metropolitan Statistical Area for December 2021. The unemployment fell, but not for positive reasons.
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Total nonfarm employment rose from 287,400 in December 2020 to 294,400 in December 2021, a gain of 7,000 jobs (2.4 percent). (This data is not seasonally adjusted, so month-to-month comparisons are not valid.) For the same period, employment in the nation rose by 4.6 percent. The unemployment rate in December 2021 was 3.1 percent, down from 5.2 percent the same month one year prior.
Considering seasonally adjusted data from the household survey, the labor force fell by 887 persons (0.3 percent) in December 2021 from November 2021, the number of unemployed persons fell by 559 (4.4 percent), and the unemployment rate was 3.9 percent, down from 4.1 percent in November. The number of employed persons not working on farms fell to 313,600 in December 2021 from 314,487 the prior month, a fall of 887 persons (0.3 percent).
While the unemployment rate fell, it is essential to remember it is a ratio between two numbers: the labor force (the number of people working plus those actively seeking employment) and the number of unemployed people. The number of unemployed people fell, and the number of people in the labor force also fell. The proportions were such that the unemployment rate fell. The statistics don’t tell us why the unemployment rate fell.
The following chart of the monthly change in the labor force and employment in Wichita over the past year shows both gains and declines. Since March the rate of change had been small as the economy settled into a more stable pattern as Wichita and the nation recovered from the pandemic. But the decline in November was much larger.
As of December 2021, the Wichita MSA had 7,462 fewer jobs (2.4 percent) than in February 2020, the last full month before the start of the pandemic, and 34,585 more jobs (13.0 percent) than in April 2020, the first month after the beginning of the pandemic.
The following chart of changes from the same month one year ago shows Wichita now having more jobs than a year ago for the past eight months until December, when the year-over-year decline was 1,254. The labor force has varied up and down.
The following chart of changes in employment from the same month of the previous year shows the Wichita MSA has diverged from the national trend. Since July, the recovery in Wichita has been notably slower than for the nation.
For the unemployment rate, Wichita is usually lower than the nation.
The following two charts show changes in jobs for Wichita and the nation over longer periods. The change is calculated from the same month of the previous year. For times when the Wichita line was above the nation, Wichita was growing faster than the nation. This was often the case during the decades starting in 1990 and 2000. Since 2010, however, Wichita has only occasionally outperformed the nation and sometimes has been far below the nation.
(For data on all metropolitan areas in the nation, see my interactive visualization Metro area employment and unemployment.)
The link to the archived version of the BLS news release for this month may be found here.