The Kansas Economy Under Laura Kelly

A recent letter in support of Kansas Governor Laura Kelly published in the Wichita Eagle makes claims that are not true.

Updated with new data.

“The economy is a top priority for most, which bodes well for Gov. Laura Kelly,” writes a Democratic precinct committeewoman in the Wichita Eagle. She writes, “Kansas is experiencing record economic growth” and concludes with, “Let’s reelect Gov. Laura Kelly and keep Kansas’ economy moving forward.”

There are several ways to judge the growth of an economy. Gross Domestic Product is the measure of the total output of the economy, and the nearby chart 7b shows change in GDP from the start of the Kelly administration. It includes Kansas and some nearby states. In the chart I’ve included manufacturing, as that is the largest industry group in Kansas.

Kansas, as you can see, ranks near the bottom in all three areas.

Chart 7b. Click for larger.

Kansas also performs poorly in the most recent GDP data that was released a few weeks ago. In the second quarter of 2022, the Kansas economy contracted at the annual rate of 2.5 percent. The country did not do well, with GDP falling in 40 states and Kansas ranking forty-third.

Click for larger.

Another important indicator of the economy is jobs. In this area Kansas performs poorly. For the most recent month, Kansas ranked forty-first among the states and District of Columbia in job growth from the previous month. For job growth over the year, only Mississippi and Ohio fared worse than Kansas. (That’s an improvement over the prior month, when only Mississippi ranked lower than Kansas.)

The Eagle letter-writer should have mentioned the unemployment rate, as the rate in Kansas is low. But that’s mostly because of a stagnant labor force, not growth in employment. You may find that data in Visualization: Employment and unemployment in the states.

While the charts I’ve displayed were created by myself, you don’t have to rely on me. At the Bureau of Labor Statistics site (bls.gov), search for “state job growth.” You’ll find the table shown below, which you can sort as I have in the following illustration. There we see Kansas, outperforming only Mississippi and Ohio in job growth over the year.

In the past, the Wichita Eagle has asked me to document claims I made in letters. The newspaper must not have done that with this letter.

Example from Bureau of Labor Statistics. Click for larger.

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