Missouri's unemployment rate surges despite job growth

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Missouri added 11,000 jobs in August, placing its employment growth in the top five nationally.

By DAVID A. LIEB

The Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri's unemployment rate rose by a larger amount than any other state last month, even though its job growth also ranked near the top.

Figures from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics show Missouri's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5.3 percent in August. That was up four-tenths of a percentage point from July -- the largest climb in the nation.

But Missouri also added 11,000 jobs in August, placing its employment growth in the top five nationally.

Missouri's job growth comes after two months of employment declines and puts the state just shy of the total number of jobs it had in May.

Blunt emphasized the 11,000 increase in jobs last week at a news conference in Troy and in a news release, where he also noted the manufacturing sector gained 2,700 jobs from July to August as some automobile plants returned from layoffs.

But Blunt, who declared August "an outstanding month for job creation," made no mention of Missouri's rising unemployment rate.

Blunt spokeswoman Jessica Robinson said Wednesday that the governor's event at a Troy aluminum plant was focused only on new jobs.

"It wasn't intended to be a snapshot of all available information," she said. "The Department of Economic Development is the resource for that information."

Typically, the Department of Economic Development releases monthly unemployment and employment figures for the whole state and for industry sectors. But department spokesman Spence Jackson said Wednesday that the agency does not plan to release August figures, instead deferring to Blunt's previous announcement.

Jackson said the Blunt administration doesn't believe the unemployment rate accurately reflects Missouri's employment situation.

The unemployment and employment figures are derived from separate sources. The jobs figures come from employer surveys, which typically produce "fairly good quality data," Jackson said. The unemployment figures come from a statistical model that includes jobless benefit claims and a nationwide survey of households, with a relatively small Missouri sample, he said.

Large changes in the survey sample estimates can lead to "unpredictable swings in the Missouri unemployment rate," Jackson said. "That is what they think we experienced in August."

While Blunt highlighted only the positive employment news, the Missouri Democratic Party highlighted the negative news, asserting the unemployment rate was soaring under Blunt and the economy moving backward. The August jump in the unemployment rate elevated Missouri to the 11th highest jobless rate among states, Democrats noted.

Nationally, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.6 percent in August -- the same percentage as in July.

Of Missouri's job gains in August, the largest increase was a 5,700-job rise in the government sector, which includes public school districts. The manufacturing sector cited by Blunt had the second largest increase, followed by an 1,100 job increase in construction.

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