Lawrence city commissioners were given a more detailed look at the community’s struggling job market Tuesday with a new report that shows retail and service-oriented jobs were the hardest hit in 2008.
The city’s economic barometer report found that even though job losses in construction and manufacturing firms were easy to see, the largest numbers of job losses in the city in 2008 were at companies that employ retail workers and others in the accommodations and food services business.
“Of the 1,000 jobs we lost that year, about 800 of them were in the retail and accommodations category,” said Roger Zalneraitis, economic development coordinator for the city.
The report — received by commissioners as part of their weekly meeting — did not account for job losses in 2009, which have included the closing of several manufacturing plants and continued weakness in housing construction.
Here are other details from the report:
• From 2001 to 2007, Lawrence added 1,154 jobs. That was a growth rate 0.3 percent less than the state’s overall job growth rate.
• In 2008, Lawrence’s job market shrank by 2.7 percent. It lost 1,066 jobs in the year, or nearly all of the jobs it had gained from 2001 to 2007.
• Lawrence’s unemployment rate for the second quarter of 2009 remained relatively low at 5.5 percent. That was lower than the statewide average of 6.7 percent, and lower than Kansas City (7.1 percent), Topeka (6.4 percent) and Wichita (8 percent.)
• In 2009, a major reason that Lawrence’s unemployment rate has stayed low is because many residents have officially exited the job market. Zalneraitis said the data suggested that many students who had been in the job market previously are no longer actively seeking jobs and are no longer counted as unemployed. Without that reduction, Zalneraitis estimates Lawrence’s unemployment rate would have been between 7 percent and 8.5 percent.
• The average private sector wage in Lawrence was about $28,000 per year in 2008, Zalneraitis said. Accommodation and food services, retail trade, and the arts and entertainment industry had the lowest average wages in the city. Utilities, management of companies, wholesale trade and manufacturing had the highest average wages.
• In 2008, accommodation and food services was the largest private sector industry in terms of number of employees in Lawrence with about 5,500 employees. Retail trade was a close second. Management of companies and utility jobs were the two smallest private sector industries in 2008.
“All this continues to emphasize the need to diversify our economy,” Mayor Rob Chestnut said. “I think it is underplayed that Lawrence would be a great community for more professional and regional office jobs. For our size, we have a lot of attributes that would be attractive to those type of companies.”