Governor Kelly visits with business leaders from across the state

Capitol Bureau

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly speaks to reporters, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, during a Statehouse news conference in Topeka, Kan. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – Governor Laura Kelly held a meeting Tuesday with business leaders across the state to discuss the unique needs of Kansas’s business community as it continues to recover from COVID-19 and explore solutions to address workforce shortages statewide.

“Since the start of the pandemic, I have asked for data and input from experts and stakeholders before making significant policy decisions,” Governor Kelly said. 

Two points the governor made in the meeting with the businesses included:

  • Kansas’ April 2021 unemployment rate was nearly back to pre-pandemic levels at 3.5%.
  • 33,000 Kansans are currently receiving unemployment benefits boosted by federal aid in Kansas, but there are 57,000 job openings. There would still be job vacancies even if all of the unemployment recipients immediately entered the workforce.

In addition to hearing business’s concerns, Governor Kelly discussed other potential factors causing the current workforce shortages including several that pre-date COVID-19 such as low wages, socially-regressive policies, health care, and childcare:

  • Kansas has one of the largest shares of workers who are reliant on childcare and school. For example, in Manhattan, Kansas — 27-percent of workers are reliant on childcare and school in order to have the ability to work.
  • Many Kansans looking to reenter the workforce also have caregiving responsibilities: this recession has disproportionately affected women who largely take up these duties.
  • Kansas’ April 2021 unemployment rate was nearly back to pre-pandemic lows at 3.5%.
  • According to a 2017 article from a Kansas newspaper, Kansas’ workforce shortage issues began long before the COVID-19 pandemic entered our state.
  • The Federal Reserve reports that Kansas’s labor force participation rate is currently slightly higher than it was for all of 2019, meaning that more people are working and looking for work than before the pandemic began. 
  • Currently, 33,000 people are receiving enhanced benefits in Kansas – but the state has 57,000 current job vacancies. If every unemployed Kansan immediately entered the workforce, there would still be job vacancies.
  • An article from a Kansas newspaper indicates that labor allocation and wages, disruption from the pandemic, friction around types of available jobs, and the retirement of older workers are the main causes for ongoing workforce shortages, rather than extended federal unemployment benefits.
  • According to an article in a Kansas newspaper, young people in Kansas are pursuing career opportunities in other states that have embraced policies like Medicaid expansion, medical marijuana, and diversity and inclusion.
  • In April, Governor Kelly and Lt. Governor David Toland heard from aviation leaders that the industry is regaining stability and is ready to hire more employees – but are facing issues finding trained, qualified workers.

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