Missouri Minute: Cerner won’t reopen offices until 2021; retail sales jump 7.5% in June 

Good morning, MBA readers,

Missouri’s unemployment rate improved to 7.9% in June, the state announced Thursday, driven by gains in the hospitality and retail sectors. The jobless rate decreased after statewide restrictions on businesses were lifted. However, as COVID-19 case counts rise and other states halt or roll back reopening plans, the pandemic’s threat to employment persists. Amid those climbing case counts, Cerner, the largest private employer in the Kansas City area, is asking its employees to keep working from home. The health care IT company plans to keep its offices closed until 2021. Amid the stresses of the pandemic, companies offering an escape have enjoyed some good fortune. In southwest Missouri, dealerships report surging sales of recreational vehicles. And in Columbia, a tech startup is gaining traction with its tool for reducing stress using virtual reality.


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Cerner won’t reopen offices until 2021 
The Kansas City area’s largest private-sector employer won’t open its offices until next year and asked its nearly 13,400 employees in the area to work from home. The health care IT firm’s announcement comes as COVID-19 cases steadily rise in the Kansas City metro area. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Pandemic forces mothers to cut paid working hours, risking careers
After the COVID-19 pandemic led to stay-at-home orders, mothers reduced their working hours by almost two hours a week to take care of their children, according to a study from Washington University in St. Louis. The individual repercussions of stepping away from work for household concerns are shaped by gender, race and economics, the research found. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

NAACP threatens suit against St. Louis over lead contamination on eve of airport vote 
The St. Louis NAACP threatened to sue the city over lead poisoning and contamination of vacant and demolished buildings on Thursday, a day before a scheduled Board of Aldermen vote on airport privatization. The NAACP has backed a privatization proposal that could include funding for projects like removal of vacant city buildings. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Target, CVS to require face masks for customers 
The retailers join a growing list of national chains that have announced mask requirements for their customers in an effort to reduce coronavirus transmission. More than 80% of Target’s 1,800 stores already have mask mandates in place due to local regulations. (Associated Press)

Youth sports become driver of COVID-19 infections in St. Louis 
Sports programs for children have come under scrutiny as St. Louis officials are reporting six to eight new COVID-19 cases in children aged 10 to 19 daily. Local officials say youth sports have been a primary source of spread in the community. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

US retail sales jump 7.5% in June 
Nationally, retail sales climbed 7.5% for the month, but hopes for continued economic recovery are threatened by a resurgence of COVID-19 cases and high unemployment. (Reuters)

Recreational vehicles sales rise amid pandemic
Consumers are viewing RVs as a safer alternative for traveling while practicing social distancing amid the pandemic. Some Missouri dealers said their sales surged up to 50% in May and June. (Springfield Business Journal)

Springfield grocers switch to online shopping 
Smaller local grocery stores are adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic by relying more heavily on e-commerce. Nationally, online grocery sales jumped 9% in June to $7.2 billion, with 45.6 million households using delivery and pickup services. (Springfield Business Journal)

Kansas City may do away with unpaid parking ticket warrants 
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas urged the city’s municipal court to stop issuing warrants for low-level violations like failing to pay parking tickets. (Kansas City Star)


Say that again

“Some days you go home with the weight of the world on your shoulders.”

That’s Melanie Hutton, a nurse and health administrator for Cooper County’s health department, explaining the personal toll that lack of funds, staff, and resources during the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on the public health system. Cooper County has not yet received any federal or state-level assistance, aside from five gallons of hand sanitizer made from prison labor. The pandemic has stressed local health departments already facing low funding: Missouri ranks 50th in the country in terms of state funds allocated to public health. While the national average is $33.50 per person, Missouri’s government spends about $6 per person. To compensate for the spike in demand for public health services during the pandemic, local health departments have had to slash essential services like restaurant inspections and child immunizations.


Go figure

7.9%

That was the June unemployment rate in Missouri after the state lifted COVID-19 restrictions and thousands of out-of-work Missourians returned to work. The jobless rate dropped more than two percentage points from 10.1% in May, but it was still more than double the 3.1% rate from June 2019. The retail and hospitality sectors led employment gains for the month. Despite job growth from May to June, every sector of the state economy saw year-over-year declines. The biggest percentage job loss was in arts, entertainment and recreation employment, which was down 36.5% from the year before.


Hello, my name is

Healium

This Columbia-based startup focuses on reducing stress through media for virtual and augmented reality, and in the midst of the pandemic it’s trying to help fight against the mental toll of COVID-19. The company uses augmented and virtual reality paired with consumer wearables to help users relax and then monitor their heart rate and brain patterns. The startup recently won the P&G Ventures Innovation Challenge for its idea of a “digiceuticals aisle” that would offer digital mental health products in stores alongside other wellness products. The company won $10,000 in funding and $200,000 in other benefits through the competition.


It’s been a pleasure doing business with you this morning.


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