‘You never know what you have until it’s gone’: KC jobs starting to return since beginning of pandemic

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Experts say Kansas City lost about 90,000 jobs from March to April due to the pandemic. Now, as COVID-19 rules are relaxed and the economy starts to recover, about 20% of those jobs have started to come back.

But entertainers have still taken a huge hit, with many still out of work.

Catera Combs has many fond memories at the Coterie Theatre in the Crown Center.

“Learning how to be on skates for the Charlie Brown Christmas opening scene, just being around all the laughter, and being cuddled in this little dressing room with everybody singing, laughing before the shows,” Combs said.

Since third grade, acting has been her life. She graduated in 2018 and immediately started doing productions. Things were going well, then the pandemic hit.

“We were told that we couldn’t put on any more shows, so that was the end of that,” Combs said.

Since then, Combs started working at an assisted living facility and blogging — but it’s not the same.

“Financially, it was a struggle,” Combs said. “They say you never know what you have until it’s gone, and I can truly feel that statement.”

And Combs isn’t alone. Tens of thousands of people in Kansas City have lost their jobs.

“Hospitality, that’s the area that’s been hit the hardest,” said Nathan Mauck, associate professor of finance at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Mauck said Kansas City is doing better than some areas because it’s diverse, not relying on just a few forms of employment.

“We went from March unemployment rate about 3% to April, like about 12%, and just in Kansas City,” Mauck said. “And now we’re back down to a little under 8% unemployment. So a lot of people have gotten back to work, but this still leaves a lot of people looking for jobs and potentially not as many openings.”

As of Oct. 20, Missouri’s job dashboard listed nearly 600 job openings within 25 miles of Kansas City, from health care work like nursing; positions with Kansas City’s own, Cerner; to construction work; engineering and more.

Genesis 10 is promising to train and hire hundreds of people in the information technology sector, where they said the nation is experiencing a shortage of about one million positions.

Amazon, which has been extremely busy during the pandemic, has promised to open a fulfillment center in KCK in 2021, bringing 500 jobs to the area.

Expecting a record holiday season for shipping, last month, UPS announced it is hiring 100,000 seasonal employees, expecting many of those positions to turn into full-time ones.

Locally, FedEx is hiring 300 people for their distribution center in KC’s Northland Park.

“I think the big thing to watch is how much of the job loss and business loss is permanent, and how much of it is temporary? I don’t think we know the answer to that yet,” Mauck said.

That’s something experts will monitor.

But, in the meantime, Combs said she’s optimistic, as actors are already making it work with virtual shows, some even wearing clear masks.

She’s looking forward to a return to the stage.

“I know that it’ll come back strong, even stronger,” Combs said. “We all need a little plot twist though, just a little.”

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