With Labor Day upon us, let’s look at some numbers to help us assess the health of our economy and the jobs it provides those who call Kansas home.


That’s the number of people employed in Kansas in July 2019. As summer comes to an end, the state has shown gains in non-farm jobs over the last year.

Those working in agriculture, however, continue to battle problems created by nature and Washington. Tough times in farming have left overall employment down slightly. However, the number of non-farm jobs in the state increased by about 14,000 since July 2018.


This is a worrisome number for Kansas. It’s the size of the state’s labor pool.

The labor pool includes everyone in Kansas who works or wants to work. Before the recession hit more than a decade ago, the labor pool was well over 1.5 million people. It started to shrink in 2009 and never really recovered.

Workers have moved out of state, retired early or stopped working for other reasons. Younger adults aren’t staying in Kansas or moving here in big enough numbers to make up the losses.

There have been a few upward blips in the size of Kansas’ labor pool, but the July figure was more than 2,800 smaller than the July 2018 figure.

Nationally the size of the labor force has been growing since 2010. In Kansas, it has been shrinking.

4.2 percent

As of June, that was the annual increase in the average hourly wage in Kansas.

Hourly wages had seen little change for most Kansans through several years, but starting about June 2018, the numbers started climbing, likely evidence that many employers are competing for a dwindling number of workers.

This was one of the few areas in which Kansas out-performed the national average. From June 2018 to June 2019, the federal hourly wage increase was 1.2 percent. Taken over a two-year period the federal and state numbers increased about the same percentage. But the federal wage is still slightly higher, $27.89 an hour, compared to $25.29 in Kansas.

$137 billion

That’s the estimated figure from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for U.S. agricultural exports this fiscal year.

But we’ll be lucky to hit that number. The estimate was made in May, before the latest round of tariffs and retaliatory measures were announced by President Donald Trump and China, one of U.S. farmers’ bigger markets.

If we do hit the $137 billion figure, that will be a decrease of $6.3 billion from 2018. And the 2018 figure was $9 billion less than the 2014 total of $152.3 billion.

And it’s not just farmers who suffer the consequences of the president’s trade war. The state’s aviation industry also has been hit.

Aircraft, engines and aviation parts account for between 20 and 25 percent of all Kansas’ international exports. Grain, meat and food make up another 30 percent or so of exports.

Manufacturers of ag-related products – medicine, equipment and fertilizers, for example — account for another sizeable chunk.

Increasingly, Kansas’ economy, like the rest of the nation, relies on the state’s ability to participate in global markets.

A native of Garden City, Julie Doll is a former journalist who has worked at newspapers across Kansas.