Economic report shows fewer counties in Southeast Missouri reported increase in unemployment

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Fewer counties in Southeast Missouri reported an increase in unemployment during the fourth quarter of 2008, but the overall unemployment rate continued to rise, according to a report recently released by the Southeast Missouri State University Center for Economic and Business Research.

Five of the 24 counties in the report -- Bollinger, Dent, Madison, Mississippi, and Stoddard -- saw unemployment rates decrease or remain the same in the fourth quarter.

During the third quarter of 2008, all counties but one reported an increase.

Overall employment in Southeast Missouri decreased by 829 jobs. Compared to the last quarter of 2007, 6,000 fewer Southeast Missourians are employed, a 1.5 percent decline in overall employment.

"The effects of the national recession hit pretty hard in the last quarter of 2008 in Southeast Missouri," center director Bruce Domazlicky wrote in the report. While the percentage decline may appear to be small, he said, employment typically rises in the fourth quarter because of seasonal factors.

The region's unemployment rate reached 7.4 percent at the end of December, compared to 5.4 percent at the end of 2007. Perry and Cape Girardeau counties had the lowest unemployment rates at 4.8 and 5 percent, respectively.

Larry Tucker, executive director of the Perry County Economic Development Authority, said Perry County's low unemployment rate is because of its close-knit business community. Even with one of its largest employers, TG Missouri Corp., temporarily cutting its work force by 150 in early February, he said the county's businesses will continue to thrive.

"I have to take my hat off and give credit to our major employers, who are the foundation and backbone of our communities," Tucker said. "They're stable, well-managed companies who do well year-in and year-out."

As a result of the region's rising unemployment rate, Domazlicky said retail sales and growth in personal income have been affected.

Although fourth-quarter numbers were not available, Domazlicky said personal income grew 3.9 percent in the third quarter, down from 5.7 percent in the second quarter.

Fourth-quarter retail sales were $50 million less in 2008 than in 2007, a decline of about , or 2.5 percent.

"This reflects the slower personal income growth as well as a pullback by consumers in their spending as they choose to save more in the face of economic uncertainty," Domazlicky wrote.

Though Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce president and executive director John Mehner said businesses are suffering everywhere in the country, he thinks the city's hotel and restaurants will be a bright spot.

"There's no doubt it's slowed down here, but it's not as bad as some other parts of the country," Mehner said. "We are a regional center, and people come here for a lot of reasons that in turn drives our economy.

"Plus, we have a vibrant education and health-care sector that remains strong and contributes to money spent in Cape Girardeau," he said. "I think we'll see retail sales doing well this year in our community."


Pertinent address:

Cape Girardeau, MO

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