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New Census Estimates Show a Growing KC Metro

March 27, 2014

by Jeff Pinkerton

The Kansas City metro area added 15,783 new residents between July 2012 and July 2013 according to newly released census estimates. This puts the total population at 2,054,473, which makes it the 30th largest metro in the country. The 15,783 increase also marks the largest annual growth figure so far this decade. The increase from 2010 to 2011 was 11,102; from 2011 to 2012, the metro grew by 13,897).

The vast majority (11,625) of Kansas City’s new population is a result of natural growth (births minus deaths). The rest (3,890) is due to migration. Within this migration number, 3,119 was international migration, while 771 was domestic migration. This domestic migration figure is very modest, but it does mark a turnaround from the 2011-12 estimates, when Kansas City lost more than 1,000 residents to domestic migration.

Population Change within the Metro

Looking under the hood, we can see which counties within the metro garnered the largest population increases between 2012 and 2013. Not surprisingly, Johnson County continues to be the population growth leader in the region. Johnson County’s population growth of 7,097 accounted for 45 percent of the metro’s total. Incidentally, Johnson County accounted for 83 percent of the entire state of Kansas’ growth over the period. Wyandotte County contributed an additional 1,209 residents (8 percent of the metro total).

On the Missouri side, the Northland grew by 4,021 (2,834 in Clay County and 1,187 in Platte). Combined, they accounted for 26 percent of the region’s growth. Jackson County, the largest county in the metro, added 2,752 new residents, or 17 percent of the metro’s total change.


The Case of the Disappearing Labor Force

March 27, 2014

Dissappearing Labor Force

by Jeff Pinkerton

Now that we are nearly 5 years removed from the end of the great recession, we can see the economy starting to return to normal. But one big question remains: what happened to the labor force? Ben Casselman posted an excellent synopsis of the labor force question on the newly expanded FiveThirtyEight blog. (A quick aside — FiveThirtyEight is quickly becoming one of my daily “must read” websites. Where else can you get thoughtful analysis on the labor force and the NCAA basketball tournament in one place?)

In summary, the labor force story is this: just 62.8 percent of the adult population in the U.S. is currently in the labor force — currently working or actively looking for work. This is down from 66 percent at the end of 2007, when the recession began. In fact, 62.8 is the lowest labor force participation rate since the 1970s. If today’s labor force were at the pre-recession participation rate of 66 percent, we would have an additional 8 million more people in the labor force nationwide. So where did they go?

This question is difficult to answer because we have a couple of unique factors affecting the labor force today.

Demographics is Destiny

The first factor has to do with demographics. The great recession just happened to coincide with the oldest of the baby boomer generation reaching retirement age. We could have expected that to cause a drop in the labor force simply because more people are retiring. According to Casselman’s analysis, retiring baby boomers alone would have caused the labor force to decline by 3.2 million — regardless of how well (or poorly) the economy was doing.

An additional 1.8 million people are estimated to have left the labor force because they are now receiving disability benefits.

We are Doing More with Less

The second factor is purely economic. During the recession, businesses had to do more with less, and either by working harder or using more technology, they did just that. Productivity soared. Fewer workers were producing more and more. Businesses simply did not need as many employees. As a result, more and more people simply gave up looking for work and dropped out of the labor force. The remaining 3 million “missing” workers may have returned to (or remained in) school, or they may be living off of savings. Either way they are not actively in the workforce now, but might return if jobs become more plentiful.

Kansas City’s Story

Kansas City’s labor force makes up 0.7 percent of the national labor force, so we can estimate that there about 27,000 people in the Kansas City would re-enter the workforce if more jobs were available. Considering the fact that the Kansas City metro added just 9,000 net jobs in 2013, it will take a while to absorb this backlog unless the pace of employment growth increases significantly.

Health Care Industry Keeps KC’s Economy…well….Healthy

March 12, 2014


by Jeff Pinkerton

I had the pleasure of presenting at the Greater Kansas City Health Care Economy Forum on Tuesday. Much of the forum focused on the important and growing role of community health workers (CHWs) to help people navigate the often complex world of health care. Our health care system is evolving to better serve a growing, aging and diversifying population, and CHWs are going to be an increasingly important link between patients and health care providers. You can read more about CHWs in this Health Care Workforce report.

My presentation focused on the size of the health care industry workforce and employment trends. Health care is the second largest industry in the region (based on employment) with almost 140,000 employees. If we included health insurance, medical equipment manufacturing and government health workers, it would actually be the biggest industry.

Health care is the only industry in the Kansas City region that maintained steady employment growth throughout the Great Recession, and it is certain to continue to grow in the years to come. We expect the region’s population to grow by 400,000 between 2010 and 2030. People over 65 will account for nearly half of that growth (48 percent).

A copy of my presentation, which includes more information on top skills and occupations currently in demand, is available here.

KCMO is Top Destination for Movers New to the Area

February 26, 2014
Recent Mover by City

Source: U.S. Census Bureau; ACS 2012 5 yr.

by Jeff Pinkerton

In 2012, more than 81,000 people moved into the Kansas City metro. Of this population, nearly 19,000 (23 percent) settled in Kansas City, Mo. Overland Park was a distant second on the list with 8,860, followed by the city of Leavenworth. Leavenworth is an unusual case, with the bulk of its migration being tied to military service (or the prison!). The table shows the regional cities with the most new residents from outside the region. Like Leavenworth, the presence of prisons in Cameron and Lansing has boosted their numbers.

It is more interesting to dive deeper into the data and see more precisely where these new residents settled. The census bureau provides this data at the census tract level, which is illustrated in the map below.

There are some clearly defined pockets that tend to draw residents new to the area.

First, the area stretching from the Rockhurst and UMKC campuses through the Plaza and into the KU Medical Center neighborhood stands out. In those tracts, more than 12 percent of the current population moved into the Kansas City area in the past year (3,030 out of 24,597). This makes sense considering the large numbers of students moving into the area.

As we mentioned earlier, Leavenworth stands out on the map; 20 percent of the city’s current population lived outside the Kansas City Metro one year earlier.

In northern Johnson County (just west of Metcalf in Mission), there is a census tract that has large concentration of new residents as well. This is an area with a lot of apartments that may attract recent graduates who are moving to the area. Overall, 18 percent of the population in this tract lived outside the metro area one year ago.

Beyond these pockets, it would appear that Johnson County is a more popular destination for new residents than the Northland or Eastern Jackson County.

Recent Mover Map

This is a relatively new and rich dataset that we are just starting to analyze. Stay tuned for more.

Back to Work, KC! A 2013 Employment Recap

February 7, 2014

by Jeff Pinkerton

In an earlier post we discussed 10 reasons to be excited about the Kansas City economy in 2014. As we pored through some year-end employment data for the Kansas City metro, we realized that 2013 put the local economy on solid footing to realize those expectations.

For starters, the metro’s unemployment rate dropped to levels we haven’t seen since 2008. The current, seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate stands at 5.6 percent. When compared to the 52 other large metros — those with a population of at least 1 million — Kansas City is seventh-lowest.

The chart below shows a steady overall decline in the unemployment rates since 2010, both seasonally adjusted and non-seasonally adjusted. Early 2013 trended relatively flat for Kansas City, but the rates dropped significantly in the fourth quarter.

2013 Unemp Rate Chart

However, despite lower unemployment rates, Kansas City’s employment growth was pretty unremarkable in 2013, adding just 7,600 jobs from January to December. Much of the region’s total employment growth is attributed to the Professional Business Services sector which grew by 3,600, and the Construction industry which grew by 2,000. The Retail sector was the biggest drain on local employment, losing 4,800 jobs. The infographic below has the employment details for all industries.


SKYNET is coming…for your job!

January 24, 2014
Hi, May I help you?

Hi, May I help you?

by Jeff Pinkerton

We are all familiar with workplace automation. We have seen the huge robotic arms moving and welding car parts on production lines like those at Fairfax and Claycomo. But the robots aren’t stopping at our manufacturing plants. They may soon be taking our places (or at least some of our places) in a wide variety of occupations.

A couple of researchers from Oxford determined the likelihood of 702 unique occupations being essentially eliminated by computerization over the next 10 to 20 years. By their count, about 47 percent of U.S. jobs are at risk.

So, what jobs are most likely to be automated out of existence? Here are the top 10.

  • Telemarketers
  • Title Examiners, Abstractors and Searchers
  • Sewers, Hand
  • Mathematical Technicians
  • Insurance Underwriters
  • Watch Repairers
  • Cargo and Freight Agents
  • Tax Preparers
  • Photographic Process Workers and Processing Machine Operators
  • New Accounts Clerks

Each of these jobs stands a 99-percent likelihood of being automated in the next two decades.

On the robot-safe side of the list, the 10 jobs that are least likely to be automated are:

  • Recreational Therapists
  • First-Line Supervisors of Mechanics, Installers and Repairers
  • Emergency Management Directors
  • Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers
  • Audiologists
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Orthotists and Prosthetists
  • Healthcare Social Workers
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
  • First-Line Supervisors of Fire Fighting and Prevention Workers

The complete list can be seen in the report, but basically jobs that are repetitive and labor intensive are prime candidates for automation. Jobs that require human creativity (like teaching) or split-second analysis and decision making (like surgery) are pretty safe from automation.

Some other notable occupations and their percent of likelihood for automation include:

  • Elementary School Teacher, 0.44 percent
  • Pharmacist, 1.2 percent
  • Lawyer, 3.5 percent
  • Air Traffic Controller, 11 percent
  • Private Detective and Investigator, 31 percent
  • Computer Programmer, 48 percent
  • Machinist, 65 percent
  • Carpenter, 72 percent
  • Fast Food Cook, 81 percent
  • Retail Salesperson, 92 percent

Now, obviously our need for these skills will not entirely go away, but technology may make it so we will need fewer workers to do the job. Manufacturing is a good example of this. As a nation, manufacturing output is near all-time highs, but manufacturing employment is declining. We are doing more with less labor, due in part to technology and automation.

For real job security, pick a career that requires you to be creative and analytical.

See you next time, hopefully — there is a 43 percent chance that my economist job will soon be taken over by a robot.

Apartment and Industrial Sectors Driving KC’s Commercial Real Estate Scene

January 15, 2014

P&L Constr

by Jeff Pinkerton

Integra Realty Resources released its 2014 forecast earlier this week and the Kansas City market definitely has some bright spots.


The Great Recession is now well in our national rear-view mirror. Most markets across the country are in recovery or expansion mode in the four main real estate segments (office, apartment, retail and industrial).

The Kansas City market is doing particularly well in apartments and industrial real estate, where we fall into the expansion category. This category is marked by decreasing vacancy rates, moderate to high levels of new construction, high absorption rates and higher rental rates.

The apartment segment has been the fastest growing segment on a national level as well, although there are signs that the growth may be slowing.

The Kansas City office and retail segments are still placed in the recovery category, meaning that vacancy rates are starting to decline, but there is little new construction and rental rates haven’t yet begun to rise.

Real Estate Cycle

Source: Integra Realty Resources

The main local story is that all four sectors are on the upswing after struggling in the years since the recession, and in the near term, market demand for multi-family housing and industrial space has pushed these two sectors into a more active growth phase.

The full report is available for download at Integra’s website.



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