May unemployment ticks up as more Missourians enter labor force

Missouri’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 4.2% in May from 4.1% in April, according to state labor data released Wednesday. May’s rate marked a significant improvement over the same month last year, when unemployment stood at 9.6% shortly after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This May was the first time the unemployment rate has increased in the state since the start of the pandemic, when unemployment jumped to 12.5% in April 2020 from 3.7% the month before.

May’s increased unemployment rate came as the state’s civilian labor force grew, signaling more people actively seeking work.

Missouri added 6,000 nonfarm jobs for the month, carried by large gains in professional services (2,900), leisure and hospitality (2,800) and education and health (2,500). The largest losses were reported in trade, transportation and utilities, which shed about 3,800 jobs.

Gov. Mike Parson cut off federal, pandemic-related unemployment aid to Missourians starting June 12. Parson said the decision was driven by concerns of a statewide labor shortage.

“From conversations with business owners across the state, we know that they are struggling not because of COVID-19,” Parson said in a press release, “but because of labor shortages resulting from these excessive federal unemployment programs.”

According to the May jobs report, “long-term improvement can be expected, but short-term shortages of semiconductor chips may hold down employment in manufacturing in the next few months.”

Several auto plants in Missouri have experienced closures or reduced shifts in recent months as a result of the shortage. Missouri lost 1,600 manufacturing jobs in May.


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