Missouri unemployment rate falls in January

Tuesday, February 28, 2012 ~ Updated 4:49 PM

Local and state jobless rates are at their lowest levels in years.

Missouri's January unemployment rate dropped half a point to 7.5 percent, the Missouri Department of Economic Development announced Tuesday. The nationwide unemployment rate for January was higher than Missouri at 8.3 percent.

During January, Missouri's nonfarm payroll increased by 21,100 jobs.

This is the state's lowest jobless rate since November 2008. Although January unemployment rates aren't yet available on the county level, in December, Cape Girardeau County's unemployment rate was at 6.1 percent.

Throughout 2011 the county's jobless rate fell steadily from 8.2 percent in January to 6.1 percent in December. That's the county's lowest unemployment rate since December 2009.

Typically, unemployment is at its highest during the months of December, January and February. Many weather-dependent business, particularly in the construction industry, have seasonal layoffs.

That wasn't the case this year.

The mild winter allowed many people who usually stop during the winter months to keep working, said Joe Rozier, vice president of Workforce Employment Solutions in Cape Girardeau.

While Cape Girardeau County's December unemployment rate is lower than the state's, several surrounding counties were seeing rates above the statewide January rate.

They include: Scott County, 7.9 percent; Stoddard County, 8.7 percent; and Bollinger County, 8.2 percent.

Perry County continues to have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state, at 5.1 percent in December.

Rozier said there's not really one type of business that is adding the most jobs, but housing related businesses seem to be recovering at a slower pace.

Over the past two years, he said local companies and facilities including Havco, Nordenia USA, Excel and TG Missouri have continued to add jobs.

"There are jobs in Southeast Missouri for people that have a willingness to work and the work ethic to pursue those opportunities," said Rozier, whose company has eight office throughout the region.

His own business increased 30 percent during 2011 as more companies contacted him for help filling open positions, he said.

"A lot of companies today, even when business is extremely good, don't know if they can carry it forward," he said. "They're using strategic partners in the staffing industry to help them flex their workforce. Then people who prove themselves are being brought on as full-time employees."

In this economy, businesses are managing their staffs and inventories much closer, Rozier said.

Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO John Mehner said he's seen evidence of increased retail sales and increased interest from new retailers in recent months.

"We've also had some additions in manufacturing and we've got a couple major employers coming online before the end of the year," Mehner said.

Isle of Capri recently began the first wave of its hiring process for its new Cape Girardeau casino development slated to open by Thanksgiving and Menards home improvement center is expected to start hiring soon for its late spring store opening. Nordenia USA also recently completed a major expansion with the construction of its new building in the Jackson Industrial Park.

Although the economy is moving in a positive direction, Mehner said he's concerned soaring gas prices may cause it to stall out.

"If gas goes to $4.50 or $5 a gallon, it will be very difficult for many folks," Mehner said. "For anybody who is in the distribution business, sometimes 10 cents a gallon can make a ton of difference in their costs."

If gas prices remain in check, Mehner said consumers will continue to spend more, allowing businesses to hire more workers.

mmiller@semissourian.com

388-3646

Pertinent address:

267 N. Mount Auburn Road, Cape Girardeau, MO

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