The Wichita area economy grew a modest 1.4 percent in 2012, after factoring out inflation, according to a new federal report.
The metro area – Sedgwick, Butler, Harvey, Sumner and Kingman counties – produced $29.7 billion in goods and services last year, making it the 79th largest metro economy in America, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
That places Wichita just ahead of Akron, Ohio, and just behind El Paso, Texas. Gross domestic product is a measure of all goods and services produced in the metro area.
The growth rate for 2012 was good enough to put Wichita in the middle of the country’s 381 metro areas. If inflation is included, Wichita’s economy grew 2.8 percent.
Wichita has grown every year since the recession, but it’s been slow, largely because the corporate jet industry remains in a depression. As of last year, the value of local goods and services had not matched the peak reached in 2007, after adjusting for inflation.
The area could get close this year, said Jeremy Hill, director of the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University.
This year’s layoffs, such as at Spirit AeroSystems, Boeing Wichita and Cessna, don’t mean collapsing demand in the aircraft industry, Hill said, but are more of a steamlining of the companies in the face of long-term downsizing, or companies that are adjusting after finding the economy didn’t recover as quickly as they had anticipated.
And Wichita has seen growth in other sectors in 2012, such as in the oil and agricultural machinery industries.
Wichita’s GDP is growing faster than employment as companies increase sales while hiring fewer workers. It’s productivity growth, he said.
Hill said he expects 2013 to surpass 1.4 percent growth. It would take growth of between 2.5 and 3 percent in 2013 to set a new peak.
“The tone of the economy has changed and although there have been some job losses, things feel more positive,” he said.