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Source of Metro Employment Growth Shifting East?

October 5, 2017

All told, the Kansas City MSA is in a good employment groove. On average, the metro has been adding about 25,000 new jobs a year since 2015. This stability is nice considering Kansas City employment growth has been something of a roller-coaster ride coming out of the recession. This suggests the economy is strong and adding jobs at a rate above our historic norms. But there is an interesting shift when you look at the sources of these jobs.

CH1 KC Trend
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (CES)

For a number of years, it was not uncommon for the Kansas side of the metro to be the job growth leader. In fact, from the January 2012 to January 2015, the Kansas side generated 56 percent of the metro’s total jobs. Since then, the Missouri side has seen employment growth surge while employment growth on the Kansas side slowed considerably.

Ch2 Shift

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (CES)

 

From September 2015 to September 2017, 78 percent of the metro’s employment growth was in Missouri. (This data is not seasonally adjusted so we need to use consistent months when calculating change to remove seasonal factors).

This local shift correlates with some significant changes at the state level. The chart below shows that statewide, Missouri and Kansas had similar annual employment growth from 2012 to 2014, with both adding somewhere between 15,000 and 25,000 new jobs a year This was impressive for Kansas, given that it has less than half of Missouri’s total population. Missouri employment started to spike in 2015, while Kansas saw employment growth begin to slow. Missouri has been adding about 50,000 new jobs a year lately while employment change has actually turned negative in Kansas.

Ch 3 State

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (CES)

 

There are several positive reasons why the Missouri side is leading in metro employment growth —  Cerner’s Bannister Campus and continued downtown redevelopment to name a few. Still, it is impossible to ignore the correlation between the local shift and the change in fortunes of the two states. Kansas ranked last in the nation in non-farm employment growth for the year ending in August, declining by 9,000 jobs, while Missouri ranked 14th, adding 52,300 jobs. Could Kansas-side businesses be so adversely affected just because the State is performing poorly? Sure, there could be some state government contracts that have been trimmed, but this doesn’t seem like a big enough reason for such a large shift. This is an important change in our region and one that doesn’t have a clear explanation based on data.

As we said at the beginning, Kansas City is adding jobs at a good pace. You have to look under the hood to see that Missouri’s hot streak is largely responsible. Imagine Kansas City’s job growth potential if both states were firing on all cylinders at the same time. We’d love to get your thoughts in the comments.

 

The data used for these charts can be found here.

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