TOPEKA, (KSNT)— Two candidates for Kansas Governor are at odds over the status of the state’s economy.
Democratic incumbent Laura Kelly has been hitting the campaign trail touting job growth and economic success. However, her Republican opponent Derek Schmidt believes the state is “trailing far behind” in economic recovery. In an interview with Kansas Capitol Bureau, Schmidt slammed Kelly’s election year rhetoric as misleading.
“I think it’s an election year, and the Governor’s trying to make up lost ground, because she accomplished nearly nothing during the first three years of her administration,” Schmidt said. “But Kansans know that the first three years were abysmal.”
However, Kelly disagrees. The governor stopped at Sporting KC as part of her economic development tour on Thursday. In an interview, Kelly said the state has restored jobs lost during the pandemic “and more.”
“I know that during the pandemic, that every place lost jobs, but we have restored those jobs and more,” Kelly said.
However, according to the latest estimates for June 2022, Kansas has only recovered 79.7% of 157,400 jobs lost during pandemic shutdowns that took place in March and April 2020. That’s compared to 97.6% of jobs lost on a national level.
In an email to Kansas Capitol Bureau, A spokeswoman for the state’s labor department explained why the state’s recovery has not been as “robust” as seen nationwide.
“As for why the Kansas recovery has not been as robust as nationwide, there are some industries in which the state has lagged national employment gains. Kansas has seen a relatively slower recovery in manufacturing, financial activities, professional and business services, education and health services, and other services. The state has seen strong growth in trade, transportation, and utilities with current estimates above pre-pandemic levels, but the U.S. has seen even faster growth in this industry.”Becky Shaffer, Kansas Department of Labor
Kelly also claimed that she’s created 48,770 jobs under her administration. According to the state’s department of commerce, those are “new and retained” jobs made by companies receiving commerce incentives, many of which are “future positions.”
The agency noted that retained positions are generally jobs that are presumed to be preserving their headcounts by virtue of investing in new skills and other training. According to the department, not all job growth in the state is included in Commerce data as not all companies interact with Commerce when adding new jobs. In some instances, reported part-time jobs are assumed to be 20 hours per week and two such jobs are combined in their count to be designated as one net new position.
However, labor numbers show that the total number of nonfarm jobs, have actually gone down since Kelly took office in 2019. A monthly employment timeline shows that the total number of nonfarm jobs in June 2022 (1,397,600) are about 20,700 jobs less than the total number of jobs in January 2019 (1,418,300). During pandemic shutdowns jobs were at a low.
Kelly’s running mate and Secretary of commerce, Lt. Governor David Toland, said the state has been recovering “rapidly” and has made strides compared to the previous administration.
“That is shown in dirt that’s moving at construction sites across the state… at cranes that you see… at cement mixers pouring cement,” Toland said. “There are things that are happening across Kansas and everyday Kansans see and feel that and know that the state is heading in the right direction.”