Call it the anti-Goldilocks jobs market: a new survey of job vacancies show lower-paying jobs and high-paying jobs are available in south-central Kansas.
But medium-pay jobs? Not so much.
The six-county region around Wichita had about 6,800 jobs open in the second quarter, about one job opening for every 3.3 unemployed people, according to the survey by the Kansas Department of Labor, released Wednesday. That’s down from the same quarters of 2011 and 2010.
The fastest growing sectors for jobs in south-central Kansas include wholesale, retail and transportation. The slowest were in hotels and restaurants.
That’s at odds with rising vacancies statewide, especially in central and western Kansas, which has seen strong agriculture and oil industries. It means the Wichita economy is still largely stalled, said Inayat Noormohmad, a state labor economist.
The survey showed that most jobs open paid less than $14 per hour, or about $29,000 a year – with the bulk of that group below $10 per hour or $21,000 a year. There was also another sizable group of unfilled jobs paying over $23 per hour, which works out to $48,000 a year.
It is what economists call a skills gap, said Noormohmad. Once well-paid workers, especially those in manufacturing and construction, remain unemployed, while lower-paid jobs go unfilled.
On the other side, he said, it looks like high-pay, high-skill jobs aren’t being filled, either.
Economist Jeremy Hill, director of the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University, said he has heard from local aircraft companies that they haven’t been able to hire all of the aircraft engineers they want. About 20 percent of the vacancies have been open 60 days or more, according to the survey.
The good news, Hill said, is that he has also seen increased demand for those mid-level manufacturing workers starting in July. That will show up in next quarter’s report.
The Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas, which works with manufacturers, has seen a 20 percent increase this year in job requests for workers, to 34,700 jobs, from employers.
But most local employers are still just feeling their way through the recovery. For many, improvements in their business haven’t led to much, if any, hiring.
Sandy Schenk, director of Kraola Korner Daycare Center in Haysville, said her business is actually in a pretty good place right now.
The local economy is improving enough for people to need daycare while they go off to work, yet she has had little trouble finding enough daycare workers.
“When the plants are hiring and at full capacity, it is murder to get people for the wages we can afford to pay,” she said.