WSU revises job loss forecast

Wichita State University has revised its economic forecast for 2010, cutting the number of projected job losses.

WSU's Center for Economic Development and Business Research now projects that 1,656 jobs will disappear in the Wichita area next year, fewer than half of the 3,550 job losses that it expected during its annual outlook conference in October.

Manufacturing will lose 3,195 jobs; trade, transportation and utilities sectors will lose 565 jobs; but the service sector will gain 1,570 jobs and government will gain 534.

The difference, said center director Jeremy Hill, is that the national economy seems to be snapping back more quickly than expected, raising corporate profits and consumer confidence.

"It looks like things are stabilizing," Hill said.

Corporate profits nationally have been growing for three quarters, Hill said. Corporate jet sales tend to follow corporate profits, with a 12- to 18-month lag. The aircraft companies likely will hold off hiring for months after jet production picks up as it uses up the slack in production.

The retail, restaurant and others in trade sectors are likely to continue to shed jobs as sales remain slow through 2010, Hill said.

But the good news, Hill said, is that the service sector, particularly health care, has remained robust despite the recession. The strength of the health care sector has generally been tied to the size and health of the population, rather than the economy.

Some of recent hopeful signs: home sales and airport passenger volume in November were up over the same month a year ago.

The forecast for the state of Kansas' economy is also more optimistic, Hill said, with a decline of 6,450 jobs rather than the 10,900 forecast nearly three months ago.

In the state forecast: manufacturing, down 6,140 jobs; trade and transportation, down 4,255 jobs; service, up 3,355; and government, up 590 jobs.

Much of reduction in job losses at the state level reflects the improvements in the Wichita job forecast. But it also reveals the health of the state's agriculture sector.

"Ag is the state's strong point and has helped us through the crisis," he said.