The aircraft industry won’t lead Wichita out of the doldrums as it has in past cycles, at least not this year, said Jeremy Hill, director of the center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University.
While Wichita’s plane makers may see more aircraft production and deliveries in 2015, the center projects that segment of the local economy will produce fewer than 100 additional jobs, according to a newly released local jobs forecast.
The center expects other sectors of the Wichita economy, bolstered by overall U.S. economic growth, to add 4,228 jobs in 2015, a 1.5 percent increase. Although that would be the biggest growth rate in years, Wichita has still recovered fewer than half the jobs it lost in the recession.
The center’s forecast is virtually unchanged from the one it delivered at the Wichita Area Outlook Conference in early October.
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Area manufacturers don’t want to hire more, and they don’t have to because of the millions of dollars they have spent in recent years on robots, computers and other ways to increase productivity, Hill said.
He said Wichita-area manufacturing workers are now working an average of 42 hours per week. Based on past cycles, he doesn’t expect a lot of hiring until that number gets up to 47 hours per week.
So this year, he expects more overtime for existing manufacturing workers, more temp workers and more work covered by machines and outsourcing.
“We are seeing a structural shift,” Hill said.
He didn’t offer a guess about 2016.
Sectors showing strong growth in 2015 should include health care and professional and business services, which the center expects to add more than 1,000 new jobs each.
Construction and the oil and gas sector are projected to add 643 jobs. Retailers are projected to add 470 jobs.
Government jobs, the center projects, will increase by about 100. Hill thinks that federal and state government entities could actually reduce local jobs, while local government employment will rise but will not keep up with area population growth.
In Kansas as a whole, the center projects an increase of 24,691 jobs, or 1.8 percent. That is a slight increase from its October projection of 1.7 percent.
Feeling like 2006 again
Wichita State University forecast for Wichita area jobs
Year Total nonfarm jobs Percent change from year before
Source: Kansas Department of Labor; projections by Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University