Missouri September job losses were highest since recession, most in US

Missouri lost 16,500 jobs in September, the most of any state in the nation, according to the latest jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Payrolls decreased by 0.6 percent from August to September, the biggest drop for that period in more than two decades, and the biggest job loss in the state since 2009.

Lorah Slaton/Missouri Business Alert
Lorah Slaton/Missouri Business Alert

Most of the jobs were lost in the service-providing industries, including transportation, utilities and trade. The second-biggest decline occurred in local governments. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, local government agencies reported an increase in payrolls this summer followed by a sharp decrease in September.

Missouri Department of Economic Development spokeswoman Amy Susan said that various school districts across the state reported additional hires this summer, and probably trimmed staff numbers once the school semester started.

“It was more of a strange movement than anything else,” Susan said. “The schools may have offered more summer programs, which led to an increase in employment. Employment for the same sampling of schools then reduced for September, when the school semester started.”

Susan said that employment levels are expected to normalize for the October report.

Increased enrollment

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said that about 4,551 more kids attended summer school this year.

Springfield Public Schools was one of the school districts that saw its enrollment almost double this summer. Missouri’s largest school district beefed up its summer program by doubling the number of locations that offered classes as well as expanding K-8 elementary courses to full days from half days. The schools also offered bus rides and provided breakfast and lunch at every site.

The changes were part of a plan outlined by the new superintendent John Jungmann to improve education in Springfield schools. District spokeswoman Pam Bodine said the program is intended to help students catch up and get ahead of courses needed to graduate. Bodine said that the district hired 468 teachers this summer, or twice as many as usual, but most of them were employees who are already working at the schools during the school year and would typically take a break in the summer.

Not unusual

Despite the job losses, Missouri recorded an overall 1 percent gain in employment since last year. This can happen when people stop looking for work or leave the workforce out of discouragement, or because they return to school or stay home with family.

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St. Louis Federal Reserve economist Kevin Kliesen said looking at the year-over-year change is more comprehensive since monthly fluctuations can occur due to seasonal factors that may not have an economic significance.

“You can get these really big swings from month to month for reasons that are sometimes a mystery,” Kliesen said. “It could be a statistical anomaly.”

Slow economy

University of Missouri economics professor Joseph Haslag agreed that monthly data is not sufficient to draw big conclusions, but he pointed out that Missouri’s economy “has been slow for a long time.”

“What we’ve observed is that that coincides with the aggressive approach that the government is taking in tax incentives programs,” he said.

Haslag said policies aimed at creating tax credits to lure companies and corporations have been in place since 2005. During the same period, Missouri’s economy grew by less than 2 percent per year. Last year, the state’s gross domestic product grew by 0.9 percent.

Kliesen said that individual region analyses reflect two key factors in the state’s slow-growth slog: low labor force growth and weak labor productivity growth. “It’s probably people moving out of the state to other areas,” he said.

The economist added that many firms in the Show-Me State have reported troubles finding skilled workers.

Missouri also has experienced difficulties recovering since two Chrysler plants in the St. Louis area shut down during the crisis, Kliesen added. “It takes a long time to replace those entities,” he said.

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