Southeast Missouri State University report portrays mixed economic picture for region

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A new report paints a mixed economic picture for Southeast Missouri.

Though the unemployment rate reached 7.1 percent for the third quarter, the report from the Center of Economic and Business Research found that retail sales performed better than expected.

Economist Bruce Domazlicky — who is director of the center at Southeast Missouri State University — said that about 8,000 less people have jobs in Southeast Missouri in the third quarter than in the second quarter, when 403,127 people were employed.

Though he said the third quarter decrease is due somewhat to seasonal factors, Domazlicky said the statistics show the region is shedding jobs.

Domazlicky said unemployment could reach as high as 8.5 percent in the area this year.

"The decline in employment and the rise in unemployment are clear signs that the region is being affected by the recession," said Domazlicky, who also is a professor at Southeast. "The effect appears to be fairly widespread as well. Even Cape Girardeau County shows no increase in employment from the third quarter of 2007 to the 3rd quarter of 2008, plus its unemployment rate rose by 0.5 percent from the same quarter a year ago."

Unemployment increased in 23 of the 24 counties listed in the report.

Perry and Cape Girardeau counties had the lowest unemployment rates at 4.5 and 4.7 percent respectively. Washington County had the highest unemployment rate of 10.2 percent, an increase of 1.1 percent from the second quarter.

Retail sales increased over the second quarter. Retailers took in $11,831 more than in the second quarter.

Even Washington County, which posted a double-digit unemployment rate, saw a $2,500 increase in retail sales.

"I was a bit surprised that retail sales actually showed a slight increase in the third quarter," Domazlicky said. "I have to think they will decline in the fourth quarter."

Look for more on this story later in the day and in Thursday's edition of the Southeast Missourian.

bblackwell@semissourian.com

388-3628

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