Most areas in Kansas have low unemployment and tight labor markets, which is undoubtedly good news.

When more Kansans are at work, people can buy what they need, businesses benefit, and state revenue allows better-funded schools and other public services. However, there are economic downsides to tight labor markets that communities interested in growth may need to consider.

The Kansas Department of Labor and the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released preliminary October unemployment rates. Kansas had an overall unemployment rate of 3.1 percent, the lowest rate in 40 years, although the rate varies by region. Unemployment in Atchison County was 5.2 percent, while rates in southwest Finney and surrounding counties was near 2 percent.

Businesses tend to rely on a pool of qualified workers to fill open positions. Communities with a wealth of highly skilled workers are attractive to businesses looking to relocate or expand. When local unemployment is low, communities must attract more residents alongside new businesses.

Quality of place initiatives, good schools and affordable housing are all a part of solid strategies to attract residents.

“There are definitely ‘growing pains’ associated with economic growth,” said Lona DuVall, of the Finney County Economic Development Corporation as reported by the Garden City Telegram. “For instance, we know that our housing situation is tight, and if you’re looking for a house, that’s kind of negative.

“But we know that we have folks that are interested in building additional housing. Every time we create a new need like that, we know that there is an opportunity for someone to step in and meet that need. We refer to these challenges as ‘growing pains’ more often than not, but they are definitely better than dying pains, which is unfortunately what a lot of communities are facing. We’ll settle for our growing pains.”

Tight labor markets also drive up wages, putting more money in the hands of Kansans, but affecting the bottom line of businesses, particularly those that operate on small margins. Times of low unemployment are particularly good times to support locally owned restaurants, grocery stores and retailers as they work to absorb extra costs.

Low unemployment is good news for Kansans. Hopefully our state will continue to grow.