We’ve gotten used to hearing about how the Kansas City economy, like the national economy, keeps moving ahead steadily but slowly. Emphasis on slowly.
Economist Frank Lenk, director of research services at the Mid-America Regional Council, points out that economic growth has been right around 2 percent a year since the Great Recession. It might be a little higher this year, but it likely will fall off next year, Lenk suggests in a mid-year update to his 2018 regional economy forecast delivered last week.
Lenk sees lots of modest pluses that add up to what might be called a Goldilocks moment -- joblessness is at lows not seen in decades and the number of openings nationwide exceeds the number of people looking for work. Then again, not only is that apparently not creating inflationary pressure but real full-time wages are actually slipping. Inflation remains below the Federal Reserve’s target of 2 percent.
Kansas City, he says, roughly mirrors the national trends, but there are concerns: The metro area is slipping behind peer cities – think San Jose and Seattle – in such areas as gross domestic product, quality jobs and household wages.
Lenk forecasts GDP growth of close to 3 percent this year but just 2.2 percent next year for Kansas City. The area will add 22,000 jobs this year and about 19,000 next year. Overall, just more than 1 million people in the metro area have jobs.
He lists some specific hopes and concerns.
Pluses: Construction of the new KCI terminal, expansion of Kansas City’s streetcar, Cerner’s continued construction and the eventual replacement of the Buck O’Neil Bridge all mean good-paying jobs.
Worries: T-Mobile’s takeover of Sprint going through, the continued decline of brick-and-mortar retailers and whatever disruptions in trade might be coming.
And this big one. It’s not new, but it bears repeating.
“More and more,” Lenk states, “the availability of high-quality workers is constraining growth, perhaps here more than elsewhere. Efforts to develop, attract and retain workers will be essential if KC’s growth rate is to increase above average.”
Dairy Queen has opened a new restaurant at 4045 Little Blue Parkway in Independence. This is a “Grill & Chill” model, meaning it’s a little bigger than some locations. The company says those stores typically employ 50 to 100 people. … Independence resident Jim Nichols has been named to the state’s Talent for Tomorrow task force. That group is to study workforce development issues and make its recommendations public in September.
-- Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s editor. Reach him at 816-350-6365 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @FoxEJC.