Business

Forecast: 4,300 Wichita-area lost jobs

Wichita State University on Monday released a revised 2010 jobs forecast that doubles an earlier estimate of the number of local job losses.

The forecast from WSU's Center for Economic Development and Business Research now calls for the Wichita area to lose 4,300 jobs this year, most of them in production work.

That is a 1.5 percent drop in the nearly 300,000 jobs in Sedgwick, Butler, Harvey and Sumner counties.

The job losses are not spread evenly across the economy.

Production jobs, such as those at the aircraft plants, will fall by another 5,500, according to the report. Trade and transportation, such as retail clerks and truck drivers, will fall about 250 jobs.

The forecast calls for a gain of 1,300 jobs in government, mostly stimulus-, military- and Census-related jobs, and 150 more jobs in the service sector.

At the state level, the center's forecast projects a drop of about 600 jobs overall, leaving the work force virtually flat on a percentage basis. A loss of nearly 9,000 production workers — mostly from the Wichita area — and 900 in the trade sector will be offset by gains from the government.

The revision was provoked less by the what's going on in 2010 and more by what happened in 2009, said center director Jeremy Hill.

The basic number for the center's forecast came from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. During the year, the bureau makes estimates of job losses that are pretty accurate at a large scale, such as the entire U.S., but blurrier for small areas because it asks only a few businesses for information.

Every winter, the bureau goes back and talks to more businesses, which makes its employment estimates more accurate.

It turns out the bureau first estimated that the Wichita area lost only half as many jobs during 2009 as it now estimates the area did.

The center figures aircraft workers will still lose thousands of jobs in the first half as deliveries continue to drop. The aircraft work force, Hill said, will flatten out by summer and remain even until 2011.

Hills said he has seen some signs of the coming upturn:

* U.S. employment is starting to grow. Wichita's upswing lags, but it always happens. It's just a matter of months, he said.

* Orders for aircraft have stabilized. New orders eventually lead to expanded production and new hiring.

* WSU's index of leading indicators, which try to show what will happen in six months, have finally started to turn up.

"Those are all good things," he said. "It's the first time I'm seeing them."

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