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Archive for Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Forecast: Kansas economy to improve, but more slowly

January 17, 2012

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— The Kansas economy is still anticipated to strengthen in 2012, albeit more slowly than had been earlier expected, according to an updated forecast released Tuesday.

The Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University lowered its employment forecast for the Wichita metropolitan area and the state, citing the slower national growth and a lack of certainty in the local and global economy.

"This is due to the weakness within the euro zone, remaining uncertainty of the U.S. economy and expectations of the Boeing departure," said Jeremy Hill, the center's director.

Kansas' economy is now expected to begin growing modestly, with 13,010 new jobs bringing a 1 percent uptick in employment. That is down from the 1.1 percent anticipated when the initial forecast was released in October.

"The Kansas economy has been flat in 2011, showing almost no growth from 2010 to 2011," Hill said. "However, farmers and farm income have been the stabilizing force in our economy."

Meanwhile, the updated forecast still anticipates job growth in Wichita this year, but at a slower pace than had been expected before Boeing's announcement this month that it planned to close its facility in the area.

Updated estimates see a total gain of 1,735 jobs in Wichita in 2012. That represents just a fraction — specifically 0.6 percent — of an increase in employment compared to the previous year. The forecast indicates "a year of continued stabilization" for Wichita.

Hill said he expected manufacturing to help lead the state economy out of the recession.

Manufacturing is expected to grow 0.2 percent after declining 0.6 percent in 2011. But the report included the caveat about the closure of the Boeing facility, where 2,160 now work. The company has said it does not expect local suppliers to be affected by the closure and local job reductions at the plant are not expected to begin until the third quarter of 2012, although the number and timing of those lost jobs have yet to been released.

Job gains in transportation and utility jobs are anticipated to counteract employment losses in retail and wholesale trade, according to the report. Jobs in information and financial activity are expected to decline, although growth in professional business services will help offset those losses. Modest growth is expected in the hospitality industry, education and health services. Government employment is expected to increase slightly as government budgets stabilize.

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