Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, campaigning against Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt, said her second-term agenda included end of state’s food sales tax, tax relief for the elderly and back-to-school sales tax holiday. (Photos by Sherman Smith and Thad Allton/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — Republican governor candidate Derek Schmidt said Kansas’ inability to regain one-fifth of jobs that vaporized during onset of the COVID-19 pandemic ought to be laid at the feet of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.
Preliminary estimates for August indicated Kansas had recovered 80.4% of 157,400 nonfarm jobs — a combination of private-sector and government positions — lost in March and April 2020. Nationally, the economy by August had gained 101.1% of 21.9 million jobs that vanished as businesses struggled with spread of the deadly virus.
“Even though the U.S. economy has recovered all pandemic job losses and more, more than 30,000 here in Kansas still haven’t come back,” said Schmidt, who is the state’s attorney general. “Kansas must do better, because every job and every paycheck for every Kansan is essential.”
In Kansas, contraction of economic activity has been felt the deepest in government, education, leisure and hospitality, and business service sectors.
Kelly is seeking reelection to a second term in November against Schmidt, independent candidate Dennis Pyle and the Libertarian Party’s nominee.
Kelly said her administration worked with private-sector businesses to create or retain more than 50,100 jobs since she took office in January 2019. Lt. Gov. David Toland said growth was tied to initiation of 732 economic development projects representing investment of $13.8 billion in Kansas.
“These job numbers, combined with the record-setting levels of new private-sector investment, have driven down our unemployment rates to historic lows while underscoring the strength of the Kansas economy,” Kelly said.
The Kansas Department of Labor reported the state shed 3,400 nonfarm jobs when comparing employment in August to July. It represented a decrease of 2,100 private-sector jobs and 1,300 government jobs.
In the past 12 months, Kansas has added 15,100 nonfarm jobs to the economy. That reflected growth of 18,200 private-sector jobs and a reduction of 3,100 government jobs.
The state’s unemployment rate ticked up to 2.5% in August from 2.4% in July, based on reports by the state Department of Labor and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The jobless figure for Kansas was 3.2% in August 2021.
“Estimates for the unemployment rate remain below pre-pandemic levels and near historic lows,” said Ambber Shultz, secretary of the state labor department.
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