Kansas and Missouri: Diverging Employment Fortunes

September employment figures confirm that the Kansas economy continues its decline, while Missouri continues to expand.


Figure 1: Missouri nonfarm payroll employment (blue), Kansas (red), US (black), in logs, normalized to 2011M01=0. Source: BLS and author’s calculations.


Figure 2: Missouri private nonfarm payroll employment (blue), Kansas (red), US (black), in logs, normalized to 2011M01=0. Source: BLS and author’s calculations.

A broader, if less accurately measured, indicator of the labor market tells a more dire story.


Figure 3: Kansas civilian employment (red), and nonfarm payroll employment (blue). Source: BLS.

25 thoughts on “Kansas and Missouri: Diverging Employment Fortunes

  1. PeakTrader

    The Wichita Eagle states:

    “Net farm and ranch income fell nearly 40 percent in 2015 and is forecast by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fall about another 3 percent this year.”

    Is so called “trickle down” economics drying up?

    The article continues:

    “Farmers have already slowed the buying of equipment, which triggered slower sales at ag equipment dealers and layoffs at ag manufacturers.

    Next up is land values.

    Falling land prices make it harder for farmers to borrow money, because their land is their biggest asset and the collateral for a loan.

    Farmers borrow not only long term to buy land or equipment but also short term to operate. Farmers and ranchers typically spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on fertilizer, chemicals, fuel, seed, livestock, equipment, land rent and debt payments.”

    1. baffling

      dilbert, your article left out one other important voice. not only laffer and moore, but also kudlow. i find it fascinating that we had a well defined state experiment in kansas: with tax cuts, spending cuts, conservative social values, austerity, and supply side policies given free reign. and we have a very clear outcome-it was a failure. but all we hear from the conservatives are excuses. isn’t it about time we accept the kansas experiment for what it actually is?

  2. Bruce Hall

    Between 1960 and 2010, the median age in Kansas increase from 26.9 to 36.0 years and in some counties was older than 50 years. This was before Brownback, and the trend continues. Unemployment rate is quite low, but the likelihood of high rates of job creation decreases each year. http://www.ipsr.ku.edu/ksdata/ksah/population/population.pdf (29 of 99)

    As more of the population are retirees, attempts to raise taxes and spending will place an increasing burden on both the fewer young people and the retirees on fixed incomes. Raising taxes on businesses will simply drive businesses elsewhere.

    So, it appears that the only formula for rapid growth in Kansas is to siphon off Federal tax dollars from other states. Any suggestions on how that might be done … besides contributions to the Clinton Foundation?

    So, given this situation

    1. baffling

      bruce, kansas has been a red state for quite some time. they have a continued demographics problem. do you think it is possible the demographics problem, i.e. the young leaving the state, has anything to do with decades of conservative policies finally coming home to roost? why have conservative policies been unable to create a future for those young residents?

      1. PeakTrader

        Baffling, Paul Krugman’s Nobel paper shows people tend to move to where there are other people. So, megatropolises are formed through a virtuous cycle. Consequently, for good and bad, more government is needed.

        There are plenty of conservative cities, small towns, and suburbs doing well, certainly much better than inner cities, although generally not as well as where the liberal elites live. You need to get out more.

      2. Jake fomerly of the LP

        baffling- Right on the money. In the 21st Century, talent can choose the community they want to live in, and especially younger talent. Guess what, they don’t want to live in regressive, declining right-wing cesspools like Kansas. Meanwhile. Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, and other high quality-of-life states don’t go the Kansas rute, and they keep adding jobs right and left. Even in “red” states like Texas, you’ll notice the only places growing tend to vote blue and encourage highly-educated individuals (Austin, Dallas, etc.).

        It doesn’t happen in a vacuum folks. This trickle-down, “starve the beast” mentality is a failure in the 21st Century. The jury is back.

        1. PeakTrader

          They may end up in a real progressive cesspool like Oakland, because the cost of living is too high in crumbling San Francisco.

          Of course, many educated workers like living in conservative high quality of life cities in California, like Newport Beach, Laguna Nigel, Irvine, cities along the southern coast, northern San Diego, or the 100 mile developed stretch between southern Orange County and northern San Diego.

          And, some people don’t mind buying a fixer-upper on a couple of acres very cheap in Kansas, prefer quiet, almost no crime, little traffic, a low cost of living, and don’t mind driving 20 miles to a bigger town.

          Of course, if they want to see spectacular beaches or mountains or experience better weather, they have to drive out of Kansas.

        2. PeakTrader

          And right, it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. You can thank government for creating a culture of poor education, drugs, crimes, and low expectations. Afterall, it did its job by shoveling enormous amounts of money at the problem, which has attracted and trapped so many people. So, other people can sleep better in their gated communities. The fact it still isn’t working in the 21st century doesn’t seem to be important.

          1. Jake fomerly of the LP

            Hey Professional Gambler..ERR…Peak Trader- You really don’t understand how chronic, highly-concentrated poverty works, do ya? In reality, cities have been de-invested in the last 30 decades, while it’s rural red states that gobble up more than their share of federal government spending. And those red states are the ones that are more likely to have low wages and lag in education, probably because they misallocate their resources into garbage like tax cuts and other special-interest giveaways that protect those who are already winning the game.

            But keep clinging to the failure of trickle-down and deinvestment. Outside of the Elite Bubble World where people can buy their way out of their troubles (and pawn the bad parts off to others) , we realize “the market” doesn’t work best for a large number of people when it comes to maximizing performance. As a result, taxes are required to have the services and infrastructure which improve that performance, and true “job creators” know it’s talent and quality of life that trumps low taxes when it comes to finding places to grow your business.

          2. PeakTrader

            Jake, obviously, you don’t have a clue about me.

            I’m not against taxes – I’m actually for progressive taxes. However, I’m against failed policies that make everyone poorer, including states, cities, and communities.

            There’s really no economics in your statement – just complaints, frustrations, and ignorance, along with just more tax and spending.

            At least, it sounds like you’re for states rights and against crony-capitalism.

          3. PeakTrader

            What I noticed about your wonderful city – Oakland – there’s lots of low income – Section 8 – housing and food stamps with lots of drugs and crime going around. Some get a job, but one day they don’t feel like working anymore and quit or get fired. And, they try to game the system, e.g. secure unemployment benefits, one way or another, etc..

            In the free market system, land developers would price them out of the city, as they rebuild Oakland – which is prime real estate – into a truly great city to bring the middle class back from the suburbs and ex-burbs to rival San Francisco. The existing population would move to the Central Valley, where it’s much cheaper, although much hotter in the summer.

    2. 2slugbaits


      Your comment does not make sense. As you yourself pointed out, those demographic trends pre-date Brownback, but Kansas was not in this steep economic decline prior to Brownback. So clearly the “Kansas-is-aging” storyline doesn’t explain Menzie’s graph. Something can be both true and irrelevant, and I suspect the demographic explanation is one of those things. There are plenty of Midwestern states that are experiencing the same demographics, but they aren’t falling into the economic toilet like Kansas.

      1. Bruce Hall

        At some point, you begin to fall off the demographic edge. The working age range is limited and when fewer and fewer younger people are part of the demographics, fewer new jobs are inevitable.

        Kansas grew because of the expansion of agriculture and the support systems for that agriculture. It is not blessed with great natural attractions (like Colorado or California) nor does it have great positioning for river or lake navigation (like Michigan and Missouri). It is a plodding agricultural state and that’s not enough to attract young people. It’s a pleasant, but uninspiring place to live. No big cities to serve as urban anchors.

        Still looking for how you’d counter the demographic realities.

        1. 2slugbaits


          You’re arguing in circles. The employment to population ratio in Kansas has held fairly steady over the last 16 years. So I don’t buy the argument that demography is the cause of Kansas’ economic decline.


          Apparently you’re trying to make some kind of threshold argument…”At some point…” That doesn’t answer the question. How do you know that “some point” just happened to coincide with Brownback’s tenure? Just bad luck? Not very convincing.

          I’m not sure what you mean by “no big cities”. Kansas City is decent sized and has a lot of growth. The problem is that most of the vitality is on the Missouri side of town. And up until Brownback took over there were parts of Kansas that were very attractive to young, well educated folks. For example, Lawrence, KS had the highest average education level in the country. It had a reputation for being a kind of Berkeley in the wheat fields.

          I would suggest that young people avoid Kansas like the plague today because it has a reputation for being intolerant (see the recent example of the white racists who tried to blow up the apartment building of immigrants). It’s also anti-women’s reproductive rights (see the murders of abortion doctors and clinic bombings). And lately there’s a sense that the only reason you need universities is so you can have sports programs.

          1. PeakTrader

            There may be some racist boll weevil democrats or KKK types, like Senator Robert Byrd, in Kansas, and there are religious fanatics in every religion. However, generally, Kansas is a Lincoln state. You’re confusing rejecting destructive values with intolerance. Obviously, southern democrats increasingly found their arch enemy – the Republican Party – the lesser of two evils, as the Democrat Party became too liberal for them. Anyway, as the saying goes, politics make strange bedfellows.

          2. Bruce Hall

            Kansas has a reputation for being intolerant? How about any progressive state or university? It’s an all-out attack on “white privilege” or other mainstream boogeyman.

            You missed the point. While Kansas has had consistently low unemployment rates versus the nation … a sign of reasonably well-managed and stable communities … the growth rate of jobs cannot be rapid because of the demographic aging. You know full well that unemployment rates only reflect those seeking jobs. As more of the population in Kansas moves past the jobs market range into retirement, the low unemployment rate is measured against fewer job seekers.

            Sure, like any state … even Illinois … there are are good areas, areas of vitality. But the demographic trends are against Kansas and it didn’t start 5-years ago.

          3. baffling

            bruce, my original question is rather simple. kansas has been a red state for a long time. they have not been able to implement an economic policy that makes the state attractive to the young and innovative. why not? and during the longer term demographic slide, under the brownback administration, the economy tanked most abruptly. it seems to me, over the short and long term, an entire state has been subjected to a conservative experiment, and the results have been a failure. it is time you acknowledge these failures and reconsider the effectiveness of many of these conservative economic policies. demographics is simply an excuse. you need solutions that actually overcome the problems in the state. for example, stopping the war on kansas higher education would be seen as a ray of hope for the younger generation still in the state.

  3. 2slugbaits


    I didn’t refer to the unemployment rate; the link referred to the employment-to-population ratio. If your appeal to demography was valid, then we would expect a significant fall in that ratio. That hasn’t really happened in Kansas. Economic activity is falling for other reasons.

    the demographic trends are against Kansas and it didn’t start 5-years ago.

    It may well be true that demographic changes in Kansas go back further than 5 years; but if that’s the case, then why didn’t we see the same kind of economic downturn back then? The downturn coincides with Brownback’s policies.

    1. Bruce Hall

      Wow, Brownback destroyed the whole nation’s economy.


      … or were you referring to this? http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2015/state-employment-population-ratios-in-2014.htm

      If you were referring to the latter, then Kansas was enjoying “fuller employment” in 2014 (2015 comparable map not in the BLS site that I can locate). So, you make my point again. With an aging population and low unemployment, it is harder to create new jobs. As relatively fewer younger people are in the population mix, the absolute level of of new jobs created (not the employment population ratio) is smaller than if the population was skewed the other way and unemployment had been higher in 2009 (California is a good example, so is Illinois) allowing for “better” recovery performance.

      You are trying to use Kansas’ economic stability and low unemployment as a criticism for not having high jobs growth. Sure, Brownback was spouting political nonsense about creating vast numbers of new jobs. So was Walker in Wisconsin. So was Hillary Clinton when she was a New York senator and promised 200,000 new jobs in upper New York… none of which happened.

      You are mixing political promises with economic reality.

      Demographics is destiny.

      1. baffling

        “Demographics is destiny.”

        the demographics is just a reality one needs to face. a big problem that i tend to see, is conservative policy solutions are implemented which do not account for the inconvenience of that “reality”. for example, as i stated, the war on education in kansas is actually silly policy if one considers demographics and the loss of youth to other states. it is a policy that actually reinforces the demographics loss, rather than mitigate the loss of youth to migration.

        bruce, many people tend to be more liberal in their younger years and age conservative. republicans are losing these people in their youth because they see a conservative future in kansas, promoted by that older generation. the youth migrate to places they find more palatable. you can argue they leave for beaches, weather, etc. and that is true. but they are also happy to leave that conservative environment, for one they view as more liberal and accepting of their current generation. blaming demographics is a copout, especially when one’s policies are a direct contributor to that demographic problem.

        1. Bruce Hall

          Well, I guess your argument explains Illinois as well.

          #2. Illinois
          > 1-yr pop. growth rate: -0.17%
          > Current population: 12,859,995
          > 2014 population: 12,882,189
          > 10-yr pop. growth rate: 0.76%

          More people moved out of the Midwest than any other U.S. region between July 2014 and July 2015. In keeping with the trend, Illinois, the most populous state in the Midwest, had a more severe population contraction over that same period than that of any state in the country with the exception of West Virginia.

          Like every state in the country except for Michigan and Rhode Island, Illinois’ population increased over the last decade. However, the growth rate was sluggish. The state’s population grew by just 0.8% over the past decade, amounting to an average of just 26 people per day, one of the lowest growth rates in the United States. With the slow long-term population growth, property values in Illinois suffered from one of the sharpest drops in the country. The typical home in the state depreciated by 6.5% between 2005 and 2015 compared to an 8.2% home value appreciation nationwide.

          Did Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn have those conservative policies? Or would you like to amend your thinking?

          Demographics is destiny.

          1. baffling

            bruce, i will make no excuses for illinois. it has been run equally by republican and democrat majorities since about 1992. and it has performed poorly. but since 1992, kansas has been run by a majority republican party, so it cannot share its success or blame. and it has been run as a unique conservative experiment since brownback took office. we see the results.

            demographics is a factor, but it is not destiny.

      2. 2slugbaits


        You keep missing the point, so I’ll make one last attempt. A steady employment-to-population ratio is not consistent with your attempt to explain Kansas’ poor performance by appealing to a bad demographic trend. If demographics were the problem, then we would expect to see a declining employment-to-population ratio, right? But that’s not what the numbers show. Kansas has been holding its own with respect to that metric. Now it may well be true that over the very long run the demographics aren’t good for Kansas, but at this point Kansas isn’t there yet. And in any event, your excuses for Brownback do not explain why Kansas was doing okay until Brownback took over and only then did things go to hell in a handbasket. Maybe it’s because Brownback is an idiot. Maybe it’s because Brownback sold idiot voters (including my idiot relatives who keep voting GOP as they bitch about their sorry lives!) a loser strategy by trying to lure low wage industries by offering tax breaks that ultimately fell on those idiot voters like my idiot relatives. Maybe it’s because lately it seems that Kansas has more Confederate battle flags hanging on people’s porches than US flags. John Brown isn’t just moldering in his grave, he’s probably spinning in it. There was a time when Kansas used to pride itself on moderate government and an appreciation for education. Kansas under Brownback has turned itself into a Mississippi wannabe.

  4. Joseph

    As Barry Ritholtz reports in Bloomberg, Brownback has simply cancelled his promised quarterly reporting on the status of the economy in Kansas.

    Typical Republican head-in-the-sand economics. If you don’t like the data, simply stop reporting the data.

    Economics, climate, gun violence, whatever — Republicans think that by not collecting data they can magically ignore its consequences.

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