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Kansas City’s Economy is Growing, but Not Keeping Pace with Peer Metros

April 1, 2019

To gauge our region’s economic progress, KC Rising partners compare the Kansas City metro economy to 30 peer metros on a variety of measures. KC Rising’s goal is for Kansas City to rank in the top 10 metros in each of these measures.

Beginning with this post, we will take a closer look at some of these metrics. Let’s start with perhaps the ultimate indicator of a healthy, growing economy: Gross Domestic Product (GDP). GDP is the total value of all finished goods and services produced in an economy in one year. In 2017, Kansas City’s GDP was $131 billion (in current dollars). Among our 30 peers we rank 20th. We clearly have some work to do to meet our goal.

The good news is we are growing. Between 2013 and 2017, the regional economy grew 6 percent in real (inflation-adjusted) dollars.

The bad news is, we are not growing nearly fast enough to compete with our peers. Over the same period, our peer group saw GDP growth of 12 percent. Only four metros (St. Louis, Virginia Beach, Memphis and Milwaukee) grew slower than we did.

So why is our GDP growth lagging? The reasons aren’t completely clear. The Kansas City region specializes in growth sectors like IT and Finance, and we’ve seen steady declines in employment in the information sector (think telecommunications), but that decline has been more than offset by growth in other sectors. We remain a strong transportation hub and we have done well at retaining most of our manufacturing jobs. But ultimately, GDP isn’t just about jobs – it measures the value of the goods and services the people who hold those jobs produce. Even though we have high employment numbers in some growth sectors, we have to ask ourselves whether those workers are producing new, high-value goods and services. Or, are we providing back-office support for other regions that are more innovative and productive? Other KCRising data suggests a strong correlation between innovation and economic growth.

GDP Chart 4_2019

GDP is an important and insightful metric to monitor, but it requires patience. Kansas City’s economy is huge. If our metro were its own country, it’s economy would be the 56th largest in the world. Even with a greater focus on innovation, picking up enough economic momentum to get closer to the top 10 will take time.

It’s important to also look at changes in other metrics where the needle can be moved a little faster, such as quality jobs, income, education and equity, and we’ll take a close look at some of those in upcoming posts. If we make bigger strides in these measures, our overall economy will also grow at a more robust pace.


About KC Rising: Founded in 2014, KC Rising works to strengthen the regional economy and foster inclusive prosperity by focusing on three economic drivers: trade, people and ideas. In 2019, KC Rising has introduced a new emphasis on three enablers of economic prosperity: policy, place and inclusion. KC Rising is led by the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, the Kansas City Area Development Council, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and the Mid-America Regional Council. For more information, visit


Kansas City Starts 2019 at 1.1 Million Jobs

March 15, 2019


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Kansas City MSA added 13,500 jobs over the 12 months ending in January. The top growth sectors were education/health care, government (mostly local government), professional business services and manufacturing.
Our regional unemployment rate climbed to 3.8 percent in January, up from 3.1 percent in December.

Check out our monthly newsletter for details.

MARC Introduces Easy Access Census Data Tool for Cities and Counties

November 2, 2018

There is a LOT of data out there and quickly finding the one number you need can sometimes seem impossible. Well, MARC’s new Easy Access Census Data tool is here to help. This new tool allows users to select data on any city or county in the nine-county MARC region. Data is available on a wide array of topics including population by age/race, education, poverty and housing.

Check it out and let us know what you think.DrA_to8WwAA-qrY

KC Economy Solid, But Could Be Stronger

June 21, 2018

Kansas City’s economy is doing well, but could be doing better according to Dr. Frank Lenk, MARC’s Director of Research Services, who presented at the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Mid-Year Economic Forecast event.

According to Lenk, the U.S. economy is in the midst of the second longest expansion in history. This expansion has not been particularly robust in terms of the rate of growth, but it has been consistent.

For the most part, Kansas City’s economy has kept pace with the nation, but there is some concern that it is falling behind some peer metros.

The full presentation is below:


KCMO Leads Metro in Total Population Growth

May 24, 2018

Kansas City, Missouri, is the region’s largest city, and also its fastest growing. The city added 6,825 new residents between 2016 and 2017. Overland Park, Olathe, Lee’s Summit and Liberty round out the top five.

In terms of rate of growth, Spring Hill, Kansas tops the list as their population grew 7.5 percent between 2016 and 2017. Basehor, Smithville, Parkville, Peculiar and Kearney all saw their populations grow by more than 3 percent over the year.

SOURCE: US Census Bureau Population Estimates 2017

The data for all cities can be found here.

Where We Get Our College Grads

May 18, 2018

Some interesting new data was released earlier this week that sheds some light on what institutions provide Kansas City with degreed workers. The data  from EMSI, available via the Wall Street Journal, shows that the Kansas City metro tends to draw recent college graduates from a wide area in the Midwest.

Topping the list is our very own UMKC. Over 60 percent of UMKC graduates stay in the Kansas City area. The metro also attracts a third of KU graduates, a quarter of K-State graduates and about 16 percent of Mizzou graduates. Missouri State is also a key contributor, with 13 percent of its graduates moving to Kansas City after earning their degrees.

Although the shares are smaller, the region also draws a significant number of graduates from regional schools like Creighton, Iowa State, Nebraska, Wichita State and Drake.

KC College Migration

For comparison, let’s look at Indianapolis, a metro that is similar in size and economic performance to Kansas City. In terms of attracting people with degrees, Indy dominates the state (and there are a lot of colleges and universities in Indiana), but it does not have a significant influx from other states.

IND College Migration just map

Contrast these two maps with the Dallas-Ft. Worth map below. Like Kansas City and Indianapolis, Dallas is a major draw for graduates from nearby colleges and universities; however, Dallas also is a big draw from graduates from a much larger area as well.  Granted, Dallas has a much larger economy than Kansas City and Indianapolis, but it does say something that they are able to attract degree holders in larger numbers from a much larger area. Dallas’ economy is creating a lot of jobs. For the year ending in March 2018, it added over 100,000 jobs, while Kansas City and Indianapolis added 16,600 and 19,200 jobs, respectively.

Dallas College Migration just map

Clearly, a larger, growing economy will provide more job options to graduates as they begin their careers. They will also be willing to move across the country to take advantage of these options.

While the comparisons to other metros are interesting, we think the biggest takeaway here is how important the ties to the local colleges and universities are to the Kansas City region’s workforce and economy. We may feel that Kansas City’s dynamic economy would be the best choice for recent grads from anywhere in the country, but the fact is, the vast majority of new grads entering our labor force will be from regional schools. Even in places like Dallas, Seattle or San Jose that draw graduates from farther away, the majority come from closer schools.

This is why initiatives that bring industry and education together to discuss workforce needs and challenges, like the Talent-to-Industry Exchange, are so important. We need to make sure that the colleges and universities that send the most graduates to the Kansas City metro offer degree programs that align well with the industries that drive our regional economy.

Through KC Rising, GradForce KC and other regional initiatives, we are seeing an unprecedented level of collaboration between the region’s businesses and educational institutions. Building up our human capital is vital for the region to thrive in today’s talent-based economy.

KC Economy – Stability in a Sea of Uncertainty

November 3, 2017

We presented  the region’s 2018 Economic Forecast last week at The Greater Kansas City Chamber’s annual Economic Forecast Breakfast.  The economy is doing well with no sign of a recession in the foreseeable future.  Its steady pace since the end of the Great Recession makes it a beacon of stability with in a sea of uncertainty created by a combination of recent natural disasters and on-going national policy debates.  With growth rates near the economy’s potential, unemployment at a 16-year low, rising wages and no inflation, the economy is experiencing a rare “Goldilocks” moment.  KC’s economy is matching the U.S. economy stride for stride, growing at almost precisely the same rate, and will add 18,000 to 20,000 jobs per year over the next two years.  Yet matching average U.S. growth is no longer enough for the region to achieve its aspirations of being a top-tier metro.  Compared to its peers (defined as the 15 metros immediately larger and smaller than KC by population), KC is falling behind. Its growth in GDP, median household income and quality jobs—jobs that pay above the median wage or require education levels that give them a career path to that wage—ranks 19th, 24th, and 20th, respectively, among the 31 peers.  To address these challenges, civic leaders need to stay focused on improving the drivers of regional prosperity – trade, talented people, and innovation and entrepreneurship—which is the purpose KC Rising, a partnership of civic organizations involving hundreds of business, education and community volunteers.

The full text report can be found here.

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