Job growth remains sluggish in Kansas

? While total jobs have been growing at an annual rate of more than 2 percent nationally, virtually none of that has occurred in Kansas, according to the latest state and federal jobs reports.

But state officials say that’s not the result of a lack of job opportunities in Kansas, but rather a lack of workers to fill those jobs.

“A survey of Kansas shows that the number of people in the labor force declined over the summer months, leaving many employers with positions to fill,” said Tyler Tenbrink, chief labor economist for the Kansas Department of Labor. “This has led to an increase in hours worked by existing employees in order to perform the work needed.”

The department issued its monthly jobs report Friday showing there were 27,819 fewer people employed in Kansas last month than in August 2014.

Compared with July, the state lost about 3,000 nonfarm jobs in August, or 0.2 percent. That included a loss of 2,000 private-sector jobs.

Over the past year, the report said, total employment in Kansas has grown by just 3,000 jobs, a 0.2 percent increase. Private-sector employment has grown by 6,300 jobs, or 0.5 percent.

But Tenbrink noted that a separate survey showed the number of job vacancies in Kansas grew to 47,269 this year, a 5.3 percent increase over last year.

Meanwhile, for those who are employed in Kansas, average weekly earnings have grown 3.6 percent over the past year, to $794.31.

All that has occurred while the nation’s job market has grown at a much faster pace.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, total employment in the U.S. has grown about 2.1 percent over the past year. Within the private-sector market, employment has grown nearly 2.4 percent.

The Kansas unemployment rate stood at 4.6 percent in August, unchanged from July, but up from 4.3 percent a year ago. That marked the 10th consecutive month that the Kansas jobless rate has held steady or grown.

The Lawrence area unemployment rate was 4.0 percent in August, down three-tenths of a point from July, and down seven-tenths of a point from August 2014.

The Wichita metropolitan area, at 5.1 percent, continued to suffer from the highest unemployment rate in Kansas. The Manhattan area had the lowest rate, at 3.7 percent.