Archive for Thursday, January 29, 2009

Federal labor report paints bleak picture of Douglas County jobs

Employment situation expected to worsen before it improves

Layoffs have mounted at major Lawrence businesses, but they're just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to job loss in the city.

January 29, 2009


When you look at the monthly reports on unemployment rates across the state, Lawrence ends up looking like a pretty good place to ride out this economic storm.

After all, Lawrence’s unemployment rate in December stood at 4 percent, significantly below the statewide average of 4.9 percent. It also is lower than the unemployment rates in neighboring communities like Topeka and Kansas City.

So, yeah, Lawrence must have something going right when it comes to jobs.

Not necessarily.

‘Definitely concerning’

New numbers by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics paint a starkly different picture. In a new report released earlier this month, Douglas County shows up as a community that is on a long streak of job losses, and is shedding jobs at a much faster rate than the state as a whole.

“These numbers are definitely concerning,” City Commissioner Boog Highberger said. “It is clear that people here are feeling the pain of a bad economy.”

That much has been clear for a while, but local leaders said they were surprised at the depth of the job losses, and that significant job losses started occurring well before several major employers began announcing layoffs recently.

Here are the two major trends from the BLS numbers, which show totals only through June 2008:

• Douglas County has suffered through seven consecutive months — December 2007 through June 2008 — of “year-over-year” job losses. In other words, for seven straight months, Douglas County has had fewer jobs in that month than it had in the same month the previous year. Measuring job totals in that manner is the preferred method for most economists because it lessens the impact of seasonal variations on job totals.

• During that same period, Douglas County has been shedding jobs while the state as whole has slowly been adding jobs. Several other metro areas in the state also were either adding jobs or holding steady during that time period.

From the December 2007 through June 2008 period, the state had an average monthly job growth rate of 0.5 percent. Johnson County was at 1.2 percent per month, Shawnee County at 1.3 percent per month, and Riley County at 7.3 percent per month. Lawrence’s total was negative 1.3 percent per month.

Varying measurements

So, why do the unemployment reports look so much better than this BLS report?

Primarily because the reports are measuring two different things. The state unemployment reports measure everybody who lives in Douglas County who has a job anywhere. In other words, everybody who lives in Douglas County but commutes into Topeka or Kansas City helps drive down the local unemployment rate.

The BLS report measures only the number of jobs that are in Douglas County.

The question that local leaders were struggling with was why Lawrence began showing job losses before the rest of the state. The general consensus was that Lawrence’s economy is more dependent on construction jobs — especially single-family construction — than other communities. The real estate industry was one of the first sectors hit by the current recession, and new housing starts in Lawrence in 2008 were at their lowest level in recent memory.

The city’s major economic engine — Kansas University — also hasn’t been adding large amounts of new jobs either, said City Commissioner Rob Chestnut.

“I think all of this says that we’re suffering because we don’t have the necessary diversity in our job base,” Chestnut said.

Shifting focus?

Mayor Mike Dever said he hopes the numbers cause the community to start thinking about the type of jobs that are needed.

“The community needs to decide whether it wants to invite businesses to town that might be filled by people who work in the construction industry currently,” Dever said. “Those won’t necessarily be white-collar jobs. They may not be jobs that require a college degree. They would be jobs for people who are used to working hard for a living.”

Highberger said he thought the numbers showed the city needs to shift its focus from trying to attract large new businesses to town, and instead concentrate more on helping existing businesses. He said, for example, that could involve local government figuring out ways to help local firms deal with the credit crisis through small loans or other programs.

But what leaders were agreeing upon is that the job numbers probably won’t show quick signs of getting better.

Just in the last two months, Amarr Garage Door Group and Sauer-Danfoss have announced layoffs, and Progress Vanguard announced it was closing its Lawrence plant. None of those job losses is reflected yet in the BLS numbers.

“We’re starting to lose jobs that have been more resilient in the past,” Dever said. “I think the situation will get worse before it gets better. But I do still think it will get better.”


guesswho 9 years, 4 months ago

the city government here is a hostel also? New way to make money? but not a lot....I know a lot of white-collar professionals and college graduates who work very hard for a living, and some blue-collar persons and non-college graduates who don't work so hard, and vice-versa, so why make that division?

Richard Heckler 9 years, 4 months ago

Over building retail = unfriendly to business Over building residential = home property owner unfriendlyUSD 497 not listening to citizens = taxpayer unfriendly 497 ignoring public school maintenance = taxpayer unfriendly

wyattearp2 9 years, 4 months ago

Oh for God sake, what did you think would happen when you people elected and or appointed a bunch of snot-nosed kids to the city manager's position and to the city commission. They have their own agenda and it's not for the good of the community.... Just like Omama... Somebody needs to fill out an application for a city manager's job elsewhere and write in the name of our current city manager. Give him a great recommendation so he's hired by them and he can go screw up their city. Let's have him take the commission with him too! Let's put in place a Citizens City Commission and City Manager's Advisory Board so we can guarantee that each job is done correctly, as well as effeciently. They will have to ask the Advisory Board for permission to do anything. You know, like when you had to ask Mommy if you could have a cookie from the cookie jar before dinner. Hmmm..Hell, a third grader could run the city more effectively if given half the chance.

Sigmund 9 years, 4 months ago

"New numbers by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics paint a starkly different picture. In a new report released earlier this month, Douglas County shows up as a community that is on a long streak of job losses, and is shedding jobs at a much faster rate than the state as a whole."“These numbers are definitely concerning,” City Commissioner Boog Highberger said. “It is clear that people here are feeling the pain of a bad economy.”This is a shock for no one except the City Commission and the Progressives whose Smart Growth policies were designed to discourage growth in jobs. The pain this city is experiencing is a direct result of the City Commission policies being dominated by the PLC/GRA progressives, including Boog.

Hoots 9 years, 4 months ago

It's like they don't see that a job is a job is a job. No, everyone doesn't work at KU people or have a Phd. We've need more blue collar jobs here for a long time but those jobs have been below some in this town. So short sighted.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 4 months ago

Take a look at the economy crashing all around us. That collapse is happening because the big bidness, high finance global economy is and always has been a house of cards. The notion that we can get a few of their White Knights to come in and save us is pure fantasy, just as it always was.And as the economies of Topeka and KC collapse, we can't rely on bedroom community sprawl as our main economic engine anymore, either.

Sigmund 9 years, 4 months ago

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (Anonymous) says… "Take a look at the economy crashing all around us. That collapse is happening because the big bidness, high finance global economy is and always has been a house of cards."Douglas County is suffering much more because of the PLC/GRE Progressive nonsense. As the article clearly states, "Douglas County shows up as a community that is on a long streak of job losses, and is shedding jobs at a much faster rate than the state as a whole. Once again Bozo, like all PLC/GRE Progressives, are willing to sacrifice truth, reality and your jobs on the alter of their faith based ideological vision. Truth is Topeka, KC, Wichita and the rest of the State is doing MUCH better than Lawrence and Douglas County was suffering from misguided policies long ago. The current economic turmoil is only exaggerating the differences.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 4 months ago

Super majoritiesCity Commission: Chestnut,Amyx,Hack,DeverCounty Commission: Was Bob Johnson & Jere McElheneyThe super majorities in both city and county commissions and USD 497 have to take responsibility for this situation according to voters. Existing governing bodies ignore the taxpaying citizens. Why do you think Lawrence growth is lagging?*School Maintenance building retail = unfriendly to business = economic displacement = not economic growthOver building residential = home property owner unfriendly = encourages depreciation. Tighter markets retain values

Richard Heckler 9 years, 4 months ago

The super majorities in both city and county commissions also continue to resist excellent suggestions from knowledgeable citizens. Again existing governing bodies ignore the taxpaying citizens.One Example:Thank you David Burress for these excellent suggestions on November 12,2007:If our political leaders want to improve job opportunities in Douglas County while minimizing cost to taxpayers and maintaining quality of life, they should do some common-sense things they haven’t yet done:1. Commission an independent study of what industries are best for us, and what land and other resources they need, and what industries are counterproductive;2. Develop specific targets for industries, job numbers and quality and all other necessary resources;3. Adopt comprehensive plans showing which land and other resources will be provided, when it will be infrastructured, and how it will be financed;4. Perform thorough and public due diligence and then enter into hard-headed deals that include compliance with plans, binding wage standards, clawbacks for nonperformance, and public equity shares commensurate with public risk and public inputs;5. Enforce those deals in a business-like fashion.

Sigmund 9 years, 4 months ago

merrill (Anonymous) says… "Thank you David Burress for these excellent suggestions on November 12,2007":Yes, more Bozo Business Czar Breaded Man Studies of acceptable industry, specific targets, more comprehensive plans, wage standards, and micro management of Lawrence's economy. As far as anyone can see this creates about 5 more jobs for planners, researchers, and consultants to add to the City of Lawrence payroll. At the end of the day it didn't work for a simple reason. Once you identify and target the ideal company there is no reason for them to come Lawrence, especially when other areas are also competing for those same jobs. Why not work with those companies that express an interest in coming to Lawsrence, for whatever reason, and try not to drive them away this time.

KLATTU 9 years, 4 months ago

Misdirecting the rubes is the key to any successful scam. They've kept us fighting among ourselves while they redistributed the wealth to their buddies. We've let them do it to us for the last 28 years. Keep on bickering among yourselves; you are trading your children's American dream for slavery.

anitarom 9 years, 4 months ago

These statistics are not surprising to me. My family and I have moved to Lawrence in 2006 from Columbia, MO, and I was looking for a professional "white collar" job since then and didn't find any yet. So, I took a job in Kansas City at the KUMC. I'm carpooling with 6 other people in a similar situation. I was also travelling back and forth to Columbia in the past 2 years and I could see the difference - Columbia is growing and developing, while Lawrence is falling behind. It's pathetic to see that the biggest employer in Lawrence, KU, is NOT CREATING new professional jobs. When I look at their job postings, most of the jobs (like 95%) are "student hourly" even for higher administrative jobs, and they have impressive titles such as "assistant director" that pays a lousy $10/hr. Students are coming and going, and I'm not sure if less experienced student hires help the University's bottom line, but for sure it does not help the community because it's not attracting or retaining quality work force and tax payers in Lawrence. Just look at KU jobs website and compare that with MU's!

Sigmund 9 years, 4 months ago

The trouble with David Burress is he has never never run a business, met a payroll, or created a single job, yet he is going to tell Lawrence how to manage new growth. It is an absurd idea. If the living wage is such a good idea why not impose it on existing businesses? Simple, living wages exempt current businesses and is a tool to keep new businesses from entering Lawrence and competing with his buddies on the PLC/GRA existing businesses.In high tax cities there is likely to be an increase in the rate at which business go out of business. When new arising companies have option of deciding where to locate their factories or offices, cities and states where high tax rates are likely are to be avoided. The high-tax jurisdictions can begin the process of losing business, even early on, but the losses may not be on a scale large enough that they are noticeable. Overseas shifting of production migrates towards locations where taxes are not so high. The reductions in local business in turn beings to reduce the locally earned income. Employees transfer to the new location and hiring new people at the remote location. Eventually, enough companies' desert, high tax city or state, for which, total revenue is less at a higher rate than during the time of lower rates. By this time, many of the politicians that set in motion higher-tax rate processes in motion have moved to higher office in state or national government. Remaining politicians in office are likely to be blamed for declining tax revenues. At the macro economic level, for decades the US has the HIGHEST corporate tax rate of any industrial country and companies have fled overseas. All the tax breaks and special treatment and tax shelters and bailouts would be unnecessary if the tax rates were lower across the board to begin with. On a more micro economic level, if Lawrence's tax rates (real estate, personal property, sales taxes) were lower the City wouldn't constantly be put in the position of offering special deals to attract new businesses.Finally, government subsidized prices force the tax-payer to pay for things that they have not chosen to pay for as consumers, like empTy buses. This reduces their discretionary income that they would have spent with local businesses had they not been forced to pay for something that benefits about 5% of the population. That higher sales tax rate encourages cash strapped consumers seek lower sales taxes by buying items elsewhere or completely eliminate them by buying on the internet. You want to drive the final nail in Lawrence's economy? Start taxing the citizens savings held in local Lawrence's banks then watch as capitol flees the City.

dpowers 9 years, 4 months ago

I just love how all of you right wingers seem to want to blame the collapse of the national bush economy on Lawrences's living wage. How many of you work for less than $11/hour and support a family?

balaur 9 years, 4 months ago

Hawkperchedatriverfront’s post truly reflects the mentality of some of Lawrence’s residents (I hope only a few).Who cares why anitarom moved to Lawrence from Columbia? Good for him/her, welcome to Lawrence! That was not the reason behind the post, but the fact that Lawrence is deteriorating while other towns in Midwest are attracting developers and investors and expand. The situation at KU (using students to do professional work, thus with extremely low quality output), is well known, but nobody from KU's administration cares about it. Even wages for students are ridiculous compared with other public higher education institutions! The problem with Lawrence’s society resides in its divisive and intolerant attitude, most as hawk…(whatever)’s post. There is so much blaming left and right that nothing gets done and those who thrive because of this division get to run the show. Furthermore, Lawrence’s media does a mediocre job of serving or even adequately showcasing community’s values. I stopped my subscription to LJW because, with a few exceptions, it is all empty writing.“Divide and imperia” seems to be the status quo on this side of the Kaw these days…

Godot 9 years, 4 months ago

Lawrence, Kansas, has the most restrictive historic preservation policies in the entire world. Lawrence is determined to preserve a past that, frankly, is not only just ordinary, but maybe is a bit nasty.Lawrence cannot get over itself. It cannot see value in the future.That is why Lawrence is losing jobs faster than anywhere else in Kansas.

Sigmund 9 years, 4 months ago

Ok, lets try and stay focused here. This isn't about President Bush or President Obama. This is a long term trend here in Lawrence. "In a new report released earlier this month, Douglas County shows up as a community that is on a long streak of job losses, and is shedding jobs at a much faster rate than the state as a whole."This long streak didn't start in September of 2008 and the rest of the State is doing better than Lawrence. This isn't about just one policy, but a series of policies over many Commissions. The fact is no one, no one, believes that the living wage is good for the Lawrence economy and will generate jobs. Even supporters exempt existing businesses. Ask yourself why. The answer is simple, they wish to protect existing employers by forcing new comers to pay more for labor. Why should Allen Press be exempted while a new publisher to town be forced to pay more? Why would a new publisher come to Lawrence under those conditions? Do you want living wage jobs that never come or $10.00/hour jobs that do?Still, this isn't just one in a series of misguided policies including increased sales taxes, subsidies for Downtown Lawrence, Inc and downtown landlords, millions wasted every year on the empTy, unethical and illegal self dealing by mayors and Commissioners, and the list goes on and on. So at some point Lawrence is going to have to come to grips with the fact that all the failures of this city are not he fault of the Bush administration, but with the leaders we have elected. Want an example? Despite the tearful promises of transparency and openness for city government after Dyptheria Debacle, nothing has changed. Financial disclosure forms of our officials are not available online nor published in the LJW. Ever want to see what real estate partnerships Mike Amyx disclosed, or Boog, or Richard Heckler?

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