A newly released jobs outlook for 2014 forecasts that Wichita will be able to absorb this year’s punishing job losses in the aircraft sector, at least in the short term.
The Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University forecasts that the Wichita area will gain nearly 3,600 jobs in 2014, an increase of 1.2 percent over last year.
In the forecast, durable goods producing sectors, including aircraft manufacturing, are expected to be down about 1,200 jobs from last year. The city’s aircraft manufacturing workforce has continued to shrink, and is now at its lowest level since the 1980s, with fewer than 27,000 workers overall, according to the Kansas Department of Labor. That is down from its 2008 peak of 42,000 jobs.
The new forecast takes into account the job losses announced with the merger of Cessna and Beechcraft, as well as the continued draw down at Boeing.
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The biggest job gains are expected to be in professional and business services, a broad sector that includes everything from janitors to lawyers, which will add more than 1,500 jobs, said Jeremy Hill, the center’s director. The heath care, information, and leisure and hospitality sectors together will add more than 1,400 jobs.
A revival of construction and oil- and gas-related jobs will add another 700 jobs. Even local government is projected to grow about 400 jobs, or 1 percent, Hill said.
Hill said he was encouraged that some of the service sectors seem to be adding jobs because of economic growth locally and nationally.
But, he said, he is also seeing a worrisome trend in which the area’s retail and restaurant sectors are adding jobs because people are spending more than they are earning, by drawing down savings.
Even so, Hill said, this is Wichita’s strongest jobs forecast since 2008.
“If you look at the production sector, there is still room for improvement, in machinery and chemical production,” he said.