TOPEKA — Republican gubernatorial candidate Derek Schmidt on Friday disputed a claim by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly the 157,000 jobs lost in Kansas in the global economic tsunami created by the COVID-19 pandemic had been clawed back.
Schmidt, who tried to counter Kelly’s campaign narrative of prosperity on the Plains, said the governor’s job creation performance was worse than advertised. Instead of surpassing Kansas’ pre-pandemic total nonfarm payrolls, he said, the state had restored four of the five — or 125,000 — jobs lost during this unprecedented time. .
“The facts say one thing, but Governor Kelly keeps saying another and hopes no one notices,” said Schmidt, who is the attorney general. “It’s an election year and the governor is trying to make up for lost ground because she has almost nothing to show for four years in office other than rampant spending on the budget supported – for now – by bailouts. of Joe Biden.”
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Kansas employed 1,397,000 nonfarm workers in June. That was 32,000 fewer than Kansas’ 1,429,000 nonfarm employees in February 2020 before COVID-19 ripped a rift in the state’s economy in March and April.
The nonfarm payroll numbers tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics offer a state-by-state estimate of payroll additions and subtractions. However, the figures do not reflect activity across the economy as they exclude agricultural workers and employees in private households, sole proprietorships, nonprofit organizations and some government entities.
During a layover in Kansas City, Kansas, on Thursday, Kelly was asked by a reporter about her past references to job growth and economic development in Kansas.
“I know that during the pandemic, jobs were lost everywhere, but we have restored those jobs and more,” the governor said.
Brianna Johnson, the governor’s spokeswoman, expanded on that comment on Friday. She said the governor understood that many Kansans were “still getting back on their feet and worried about rising costs.” She also said Kelly argued Kansas was recovering quickly from the pandemic and would benefit from economic expansion, including the $4 billion Panasonic vehicle battery plant to be built near De Soto and employing 4,000 people.
“With his laser focus on creating jobs and businesses like Panasonic in the state, we are now able to grow faster than ever before,” Johnson said.
She said the Kelly administration had worked with the private sector to provide $13.6 billion in business investment. The state’s 2.4% unemployment rate is at an all-time high, she said.
The Schmidt campaign pointed to reports from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that ranked Kansas’s post-pandemic recovery 44th in the nation.
Of the states bordering Kansas, only Colorado has passed the benchmark for full economic revitalization. Colorado is led by Democrat Jared Polis, who, like Kelly, has been in power since 2019. Colorado lost 374,000 jobs as a result of the pandemic, but rebuilt its economic situation with the creation of 412,000 jobs. The state’s 110% growth figure ranks 12th nationally in recovery.
The states of Oklahoma, Missouri and Nebraska are led by Republican governors, but none have matched pre-pandemic job totals. Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, in that office since 2015, came the closest in restoring 97% of the 98,000 jobs taken by COVID-19.
Missouri Governor Mike Parson took office in 2018 and can take credit for bringing back 94% of the 358,000 jobs consumed by the health crisis, which ranks the state 23rd nationally. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Still, in that role since 2019, presided as the state returned 91% of the 169,000 jobs cut by COVID-19.