An employment forecast released Thursday projects continued economic growth for both the Wichita area and Kansas next year.
Wichita State University’s Center for Economic Development and Business Research (CEDBR) conducts industry-level employment surveys each year to help formulate its forecasts.
CEDBR Director Jeremy Hill says the Wichita area is expected to grow about 0.5% in 2020, adding about 1,600 new jobs. The workforce expanded by 1.3% this year.
He says the slow job growth pattern is a turnaround from 2017 when the region lost jobs.
"We’re getting a lot of our legs back underneath us," Hill says, "so as we go into that momentum, we also head in with a lot of this uncertainty on the global and national economy that gets a little concerning."
Hill says a national or global recession could affect Wichita’s export-oriented manufacturing industries. After a robust 3.4% growth in 2018, the production sector’s growth is expected to slow to 0.6% in 2020.
The forecast shows all major sectors of the local economy adding jobs in 2020. Half of the overall job growth in the region will come in the service sector as more leisure and hospitality businesses open.
Hill says another indicator of economic growth is that wages are growing stronger. He says the most recent data shows that annual wages are back up, which adds value and strength to the economy that the region hasn’t seen in a few years.
"We have people coming back into this labor market. We have people who were in manufacturing that went to over to another sector and coming back into manufacturing because it’s getting stronger again," Hill says. "And we have some net migration in filling in some of those key jobs."
Wichita’s unemployment rate is 3.7%. It has declined over the past decade.
The CEDBR forecast expects Kansas to grow 0.6%, adding about 9,000 new jobs in 2020. The state economy is projected to grow by 0.8% this year.
Hill says the employment growth comes as the state continues to rebound from job losses a few years ago.
“There are segments of the economy that are still struggling particularly agriculture and oil and gas that had some problems,” Hill says.
Hill says Johnson County and Kansas City are the fastest growing areas in the state.
The Kansas Department of Labor reported the state’s unemployment rate fell to 3.2 percent in August for the first time in more than 20 years.