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Latest Census numbers show Douglas County had fewer private sector jobs, businesses than in 2000


Apparently it is not just my wardrobe that lingers in a past decade. (I'll be out at several events today, and yes, I really am wearing a 100 percent polyester, narrow KU tie.)

There are some relatively new numbers out about the Lawrence economy that show jobs and business totals are actually below where they were at the beginning of 2000.

The numbers are from the U.S. Census Bureau's County Business Patterns Report. The report measures the number of private sector business establishments in a county and the number of employees in those businesses. (So, no government jobs included.) The latest data is for 2011. Here is what it had to say about Douglas County.

Douglas County had 1,329 fewer private sector jobs than it did in 2007, which is right before the Great Recession began. That's a negative growth rate of 3.4 percent. Going all the way back to 2000, Douglas County has 427 fewer private sector jobs. That's a negative 1.1 percent growth rate.

The report also looks at the number of business establishments in a county. An establishment, by the way, is each place of business. So, for example, if a single dry cleaning company has four stores in Lawrence, that's four establishments. Douglas County has 191 fewer establishment than it did in 2007. That's a negative growth rate of 6.8 percent. Going back to 2000, the county has 23 fewer establishments. That's a negative 0.8 percent growth rate.

How do Douglas County's numbers stack up to our peers? Well, nearly everyone saw job and business losses since 2007. We experienced a great recession after all.

Here's a look at 2007 to 2011 growth rates for other large Kansas counties:

• Douglas County: Negative 3.4 percent for jobs; negative 6.8 percent for establishments.

• Johnson County: Negative 5.6 percent for jobs; negative 4.2 percent for establishments.

• Shawnee County: Negative 0.4 percent for jobs; negative 8.1 percent for establishments.

• Riley County: Negative 6.4 percent for jobs; negative 2.9 percent for establishments.

• Sedgwick County: Negative 7.8 percent for jobs; negative 7.9 percent for establishments.

• Wyandotte County: Negative 2 percent for jobs; negative 3.8 percent for establishments.

All in all, we held our own during that time period. I think people will find the totals since 2000 a little more concerning. They look like this:

• Douglas County: Negative 1.1 percent jobs; negative 0.8 percent establishments.

• Johnson County: Positive 5 percent jobs; positive 6.1 percent establishments.

• Shawnee County: Negative 11.3 percent jobs; negative 5.3 percent establishments.

• Riley County: Positive 5.3 percent jobs; positive 9.5 percent establishments.

• Sedgwick County: Negative 7.9 percent jobs; negative 0.2 percent establishments.

• Wyandotte County: Positive 5.2 percent jobs; negative 4.2 percent establishments.

Since 2000, Douglas County has failed to keep pace with Johnson County, Wyandotte County and Riley County when it comes to job creation. We're still outpacing Shawnee County, but that may soon change. Its growth since 2007 has been better than ours. So, all in all, the long-term trend isn't great.

I'm not sure what to make of these numbers, to be honest. But they do seem to add to the question of whether Lawrence's economic standing has fallen further than other communities. I found these numbers as I was doing research for an article on that very question. Look for that article — where we quiz 10 local leaders on the state of the Lawrence economy — in Sunday's Journal-World.

The Lawrence economy is kind of at an interesting point right now. There are some things on the ground that support reason for optimism. Housing sales and housing starts are up. Retail sales posted a strong year in 2012. Construction of the South Lawrence Trafficway is expected to bring new commercial interests to town. The Farmland Industries property gives the community industrial land to market. Downtown redevelopment has hit a new gear. And new development interests already are starting to surface around the Rock Chalk Park development in northwest Lawrence.

As one economic development leader told me, the data is rearview mirror stuff. The stuff on the ground is front windshield material. Certainly, good drivers want to spend more time looking out the windshield than the rearview mirror.

But what do I know? As my wife will tell you, I certainly don't know how to use the mirror on the wardrobe.


Larry Moss 4 years, 8 months ago

There is only so much a County, City or State can do to mitigate an economic meltdown they all faced.

It is clear though that $780 billion in Federal Spending did not help. And, in fact, put us all that much further in the hole. A hole that Counties, Cities, States and yes, taxpayers for decades into the future will try to dig out of.

Douglas county has done well with the hand it was dealt. It simply needs the Federal Government to quit stacking the deck.

Liberty275 4 years, 7 months ago

Evidently 3 counties did something that mitigated their problems. We should look at what they are doing and see if it isn't something we can do.

cowboy 4 years, 8 months ago

This community has done a nice job of making rich people richer. The Bio devo folks who give millions to already successful professors , et al to pursue their Bio ideas. Unfortunately these millions have done nothing for local jobs.

The people that need the help are the young coming out of HS or the non college kids trying to get a start in life. The other category is small business startups , not Bio Crapola , that need an incubator environment.

There has been much talk of the vo-tech coming. If you get a full bore CC agenda with trade training i.e. HVAC , and a full CC curriculum it would be advantageous. If it is simply low level auto tech and CNA why bother.

Lawrence deserves a lot better than we are receiving !

bearded_gnome 4 years, 8 months ago

some of those numbers for other KS counties look really weird, jobs growth vs establishment loss, for example. I think some of it suffers from too small sample size causing artifact.
numbers for DGCO, I do believe, biz unfriendly.

Chad Lawhorn 4 years, 8 months ago

Some of the jobs numbers versus establishment numbers aren't what you would necessarily expect, but it is not a sampling issue. My understanding is the Census Bureau isn't doing a sampling to come up with these numbers. They use administrative records, such as Employer Identification Number records, and payroll tax filings to come up with the numbers for each county. Thanks, Chad

jack22 4 years, 8 months ago

Yeah, but look on the bright side, we have more apartments and pretty soon we'll have another place to play pick up basketball and bad mitten. And I don't mind paying more in taxes so that our local developers can afford to feed their zebras and fill up their stretch Hummers.

Jonathan Fox 4 years, 8 months ago

Don't forget the $20+ mllion dollar public library and the multi-million dollar homeless shelter. Talk about economically stimulating projects...

lucky_guy 4 years, 8 months ago

Come on IJM the old: It is clear though that $780 billion in Federal Spending did not help. And, in fact, put us all that much further in the hole. A hole that Counties, Cities, States and yes, taxpayers for decades into the future will try to dig out of.

  1. It was only 350B in spending the rest was tax cuts for the weathly so what that proves is that tax cuts don't stimulate the economy
  2. What spending there was went to keep local governments going and now that is gone we see the result i.e local governments shedding jobs like cats shedding their winter coats.
  3. You say that lower government jobs are good? Then you get higher energy costs because the KCC can't regulate. You get long lines at the DMV, you get poorer schools, etc
  4. What has the private sector done to give us any confidence that they can do anything right. Case in point the ad buy by the Koch brothers in Wichita. Reinstate slavery anyone?

elliottaw 4 years, 8 months ago

Well I am all for slamming Brownback and his damaging policies, I think this has more to do with the recession then anything else.

Catalano 4 years, 8 months ago

Oh, thank god. I was afraid someone was going to blame it all on those damned PLC commissioners. /snark

tomatogrower 4 years, 8 months ago

I doubt if anyone has more private sector jobs than they did in 2000. 2000 wasn't a bad year, then in 2008 we had a major recession with a slow recovery. Duh.

kansasredlegs 4 years, 8 months ago

Private sector down, but I'm sure gov'ment suckling jobs are way up in this town. Chad, do you have any numbers in "government 'job' growth" during this same time frame?

Perhaps if the City and County, when handing out all that "free taxpayer money" to the local 1-percenters, they could include one clause, "Unless otherwise exempted, all materials, labor, etc., must originate within the geographical boundary of City/County if taxpayer monies are utilized or tax receipts abated" Recall all the unfair labor signs at 9th & NH when Compton brought in mostly out-of-area workers to construction his building with taxpayer assistance.

Speaking of Compton, DG CO & City gave him "Eco-Dev" money for firesprinklers approx. $300,000+ as it was going to be used as a new business, generating tax revenue according to DG CO Commish Gaughn who voted for it for this handout to the 1-percenter. How much is that Church pulling in for Eco-Dev money Mr. Gaughn?

firebird27 4 years, 8 months ago

One of the dilemmas of business growth in Lawrence is that its economy is based upon a culture related to KU. In the new edition of his book, The Rise of the Creative Class, Richard Florida has used a variety of criteria to evaluate why certain communities grow and others do not. Those creative criteria are technology, talent, and tolerance. Out of 361 communities Lawrence is ranked 105th. Given those rankings, Lawrence should be doing fairly well. The dilemma, however, is with the state of Kansas. Wichita is 126th and Topeka is 249th. Kansas City is ranked 48th, but most of KC is in Missouri. In part, Lawrence is an oasis of relatively good creativity, but it is in a sea of the opposite. Florida found that tax breaks do not provide the strength of incentives that local Chambers of Commerce would like us to believe. There are communities that are economically strong now due to natural resources, such as the Dakotas and the exploration of oil. But cities like Lawrence must rely on human resources. Compared to many cities, Lawrence did not experience the economic hits in the past 10 years as did other cities, but even in good times, Lawrence must compete with other cultural centers. Florida notes that people prefer larger cities that offer the sub-cultures they wish to have, and the arts play a big role in creating economic viability. With this nation having an international trade deficit, American cities are increasingly competing against one another for economic growth. It is no surprise that Boulder, San Francisco, Boston, Ann Arbor, Seattle are among the top 5 in the creativity index and are also doing quite well economically.

If Lawrence is to grow, it must continue to invest in its cultural viability, but as readers here will say, that culture is still not enough, and I agree.

blindrabbit 4 years, 8 months ago

Not just Lawrence I'm sure; but what else would expect with Dubya and Vader sending us down the drain for 2000-2008 and even beyond. Bad tax cuts, unfunded wars, GOP giveaways, should I go on!. Oh yes, and Dow Jones at 6,500 (now all time high 14,000+) It will take years to get out of the mess created by these two, recovery on the way but too slow, but what to expect with McConnell, Boehner creating a constipation issue in Congress. Hopefully, a good Kentucky enema in 2014 will solve much of the ill will.

bearded_gnome 4 years, 8 months ago

oh, the old blame Bush, once again. the wars didn't mean squat. the Bush tax breaks actually did mean 52-months of actual econ growth despite 9-11, pretty good.

blindrabbit 4 years, 8 months ago

bearded: As a Viet Vet, I am more than offended by your comment "the wars didn't mean squat". These wars should never have happened, and I know I'm mixing points, but your insensitivity indicates that maybe some service time would have done you well. Regardless, history will not treat 43 well because of his daftness and selling out to phony trickle down theories.

William McCauley 4 years, 8 months ago

The City of Lawrence is Business unfriendly, small local, medium size chain or big box.... if the right people are not getting their cut of the action or the right bribes are not being paid to the right connected people/families around here.... you can plan on a major hassle from the City of Lawrence when trying to start a new business here and that is a fact!

CocoaCrystal 4 years, 8 months ago

How does Lawrence compare to other "university towns"? {e.g., Columbia, Manhattan, Ames, Lincoln, etc.}

For one thing, they all have a shopping mall!

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