Factory jobs expected to be soft spot in economy

Wednesday, September 12, 2001

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- They may not get the jobs they want, but most workers in the state won't have trouble finding employment for the rest of this year and the first half of 2002, Missouri University economists say.

Although not exactly bullish, financial forecasters at UMC's Economic & Policy Research Center say there will be plenty of job openings, although those employed in the manufacturing sector should prepare for job reductions as high as 5.2 percent in selected industries through 2001.

Factory employment will be the softest spot in Missouri's economy for the next several months, the university center believes, dipping overall by 4.2 percent for all manufacturing, but only 2.9 percent in the non-durable goods sector. This follows a recent announcement by the state's Labor Department that Missouri lost 25,000 manufacturing jobs in the year that ended June 30. The biggest hit was taken in what the agency calls "advanced manufacturing," a euphemism for computer-related products.

Despite these estimates, non-manufacturing employment should see some growth, with the professional service sector expected to register at least a 2.4 percent job gain in 2001. The construction industry should see its employment levels rise by 0.8 percent, while jobs in the finance, insurance and real estate areas will go up 1.8 percent through Dec. 31. The weakest link in this sector should be in the business services area.

Personal income up

In spite of this less-than-rosy scenario, Missourians' average personal income should increase by as much as 3.9 percent by the end of the year, 5.4 percent coming from non-wage income, 2.8 percent coming from wage and salary income.

Average hourly wages in durable goods manufacturing are expected to rise to $15.85 this year, with wages in auto manufacturing rising to $24.34. In the non-durable manufacturing sector, average hourly wages should go to $13.38, while rates in the chemical and allied products industries are forecast to move up to $16.58.

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