The Wichita economy still appears to be shrinking, at least judging by the amount of money that people and businesses are spending.
The amount of sales tax collected in 2010 by Sedgwick County businesses is down 2.4 percent through the first three quarters.
The latest monthly result, which reflects tax collected in September, is down about 4 percent, although monthly sales can be volatile.
Some categories of goods are exempt from sales tax, such as aircraft used in interstate commerce, industrial machinery and farm equipment. And some goods sold over the Internet escape avoid paying sales tax.
But, otherwise, the sales tax covers a broad range of goods and services. And what collections show is that the Wichita area economy down in just about every area, said Steve Brunkan, a financial economist with the Kansas Department of Revenue.
"Nothing really sticks out," Brunkan said. "The economy is affecting things across the board."
In contrast, sales tax collections for the state as a whole — not counting the revenue from the recent tax increase — are up nearly 1 percent, Brunkan said.
That reflects the strength of the agricultural and oil and gas sectors in much of the rest of the state. Farm incomes are extremely strong this year, but the benefit for the government is muted because the sale of agricultural equipment is exempt from sales tax, Brunkan said.
It can penetrate to every area. Linda Johnson of Andover has a one-woman business called Rainbow Artworks doing calligraphy for wedding invitations and place settings.
Typically, she said, she does four to six weddings a year, each bringing in several hundred dollars' worth of work.
"This year, I didn't have one," she said.
"It's an extra," she added, "so I guess people getting married are working with a smaller amount of money."
Eric Payne, Wichita area captain for Propane Central, said he can see the recession's impact in a 2 to 5 percent drop in demand for propane for forklifts from his industrial customers.
But, he said, that's nothing compared to the impact of the weather: His retail business is off 30 to 35 percent this year because temperatures so far this year has been milder than last year.
"Personally, I'd love for it to be 70 and sunny every day," he said. "But for my business, it's better if it's cold, windy and overcast."