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WSU report: Kansas to add jobs slowly

Employment in Kansas will start growing again next year, but it will be sluggish and spotty, according to a forecast by the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University.

Oil and gas, health care, and hotels and restaurants sectors will lead the state economy as it adds nearly 10,800 jobs, or 0.8 percent, statewide, according to the forecast.

Only the retail and government sectors will lose jobs.

Jeremy Hill, the center's director, doesn't expect full employment to return until well after 2012.

Growing segments forecast for 2011 are:

* Education and health services, up 2.2 percent, or 3,985 jobs.

* Natural resources, mining and construction, up 5 percent, or 3,350 jobs.

* Leisure and hospitality services, which includes hotels and restaurants, up 2.2 percent, or 2,530 jobs.

* Manufacturing, up 0.9 percent, or 1,475 jobs.

Industry segments expected to shrink in 2011 include:

* Retail trade, down 0.3 percent for a loss of 490 jobs.

* Government, down 1.1 percent, as temporary Census employees and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act-funded employees are shed.

The biggest gainer, Hill said, is the oil and gas industry because OPEC has kept global oil prices high enough, despite the recession, to encourage more exploration.

"So far we've seen expansion in oil and gas," he said.

Construction has been on life support as home and commercial work has dried up, but this year school and other government spending has expanded into the void.

Hill sees restaurants and hotels benefiting from Kansans' more frugal ways, as they spend their money on in-state leisure, rather than at more expensive out-of-state destinations.

Manufacturing will gain as Kansas exporters feel the benefit of a declining dollar and a strengthening world economy. Hill said he is expecting only a modest 1,400 new jobs in durable goods manufacturing because factories are still able to squeeze out more production before hiring.

Temporary government jobs tied to the Census and to stimulus spending will drive down the government side.

The lone loser in the private sector is retail, he said, as consumers continue to curtail spending to pay down debt.

Hill said government figures show that consumers have become faithful savers, in the 6 percent range, even though the economy has eased up this year.

"We have talked to several people in the community, and they believe this is more of a life change," he said.

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