Employment in Kansas is forecast to grow at a "slightly faster rate" than last year and is expected to add nearly 24,000 jobs to the state's economy, according to a report released Tuesday.
The Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University forecast 1.8 percent growth, to add an estimated 23,794 new Kansas jobs in 2013.
"This is still slow growth — 1.8 percent is not fast, it is not stellar growth by any means," said the center's director, Jeremy Hill. "But we have a fairly optimistic forecast."
Most of those new jobs are in the service sector, which is expected to grow by 2.2 percent and add 13,327 jobs this year. That is a broad sector that includes lawyers and hotel workers.
Also adding jobs is the production sector — which includes the energy and construction industries and is forecast to grow 2.3 percent and add 5,279 jobs. Many of those jobs are tied to the growth of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in which water, sand and chemicals are injected into rock to free the oil and gas within. Construction jobs are also rebounding.
"The economy is growing. The question is whether there are headwinds in the national and state economy — and how that would affect it," Hill said.
Among concerns are that tight fiscal policies and budget cuts at the national and state level will continue to drag on the Kansas economy, Hill said. He also cited as worrisome the uncertainty about implementation of the new health care law and the slowing of employment growth last month.
But Hill also pointed to positive economic signs in consumer spending, increasing inventories, growing business profits and rebounding housing starts.
Housing starts have been rising nationwide and now Kansas is also beginning to see improvement, which is reflected in the construction job growth.
"The construction sector, which has been the anchor pulling our economy down for several years, has really started to take off," Hill said.
Wichita, the state's largest city, is expected to see 1.5 percent employment growth. Manufacturing employment, which includes the city's aviation industry, is expected to grow at a rate of less than 1 percent through the remainder of the year in Wichita.