Plant closings play havoc with unemployment numbers

Monday, November 26, 2001

Bollinger County's unemployment numbers went from 241 to 442 last month.

The loss of jobs resulted in the highest Ocotober unemployment rate in Southeast Missouri and the fifth-highest county rate in the state, at 8 percent.

The culprit in the big change of events for Bollinger was the closure of the Paramount Head Wear Co. of Marble Hill, where 183 workers were left without jobs. Paramount, like many U.S. sewing manufacturers, is moving its operations to China.

Keep an eye on Dunklin County for another big dip in employment statistics.

Federal Mogul of Malden, which employs about 400 workers, has already announced it will close. Malden's largest employer, which opened there in 1962, will be moving to Mexico.

Federal Mogul has 150 manufacturing plants in 25 countries serving the automotive, industrial and small-engine markets. The company manufactures engine bearings, pistons, piston rings, gaskets, engine and transmission seals and other goods under the band names Champion, Fel-Pro, Wagner, Anco, Moog, Sealed Power and others.

Meanwhile, hiring will remain flat nationwide and in Southeast Missouri during the first three months of next year, according to Manpower's quarter survey.

Sixteen percent of the firms interviewed said they planned to add jobs during the first quarter of next year, while another 16 percent said they anticipated cutting staff during the same time, according to Manpower Inc.'s quarterly survey of 16,000 American businesses.

That compares with 27 percent who planned to increase employment and 10 percent who anticipated cutbacks a year ago.

The other firms said they would maintain staffing levels or were uncertain about hiring activity.

In Southeast Missouri, only 10 percent of firms interviewed expect their payrolls to increase in the new year, while 13 percent say fewer workers will be needed. Sixty-four percent of the companies interviewed say they intend to stay at current levels, with the remaining 13 percent uncertain.

"During the survey of three months ago, the hiring pace was brisk," said Peggy Gates, of the local Manpower office. "At that time, 40 percent anticipated increases in staffing, while only 7 percent predicted reductions. A year ago, employers were cautiously optimistic for the January-March period."

Manpower Inc. conducts the Employment Outlook Survey on a quarterly basis. It serves as a measurement of employers' intentions to increase or decease the permanent workforce and during its 25-year history has been a significant indicator of employment trends.

In Missouri, employment numbers weakened in October, but the state's unemployment rate remained at 4 percent.

"Our employment picture stabilized somewhat in September after having been on the decline since the beginning of the year. But the tragic events of September 11 area reflected in our numbers for October, and showed another decline," said Joseph L. Driskill, director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development, which keeps tabs on employment statistics. "We are optimistic that the diversity of Missouri's economy will help offset the impact of September 11 and the economic downturn."

Manufacturing continued to lose jobs. The largest decrease, however, was a temporary layoff in the automobile industry in St. Louis (4,000 jobs), which has since ended. Construction employment lost 2,100 jobs at a time it should have been relatively stable. The service industries were the only sector to show strength. Business services continued the rebound started in September, and personal services edged up. Educational services increased seasonally.

Over the past year, Missouri payrolls have lost more than 47,000 jobs, or about 1.7 percent.

Locally, Cape Girardeau County, which was at 3.79 percent unemployment in September, dropped to 3.2 in October. And Perryville, which lost 50 jobs in layoffs, remained one of the lower unemployment counties, at 2.9, up a bit from it 2.8 percent of September.

Unemployment rates for 19 of 22 Southern Illinois counties dropped.

"Not only did the number of people unemployed drop in most counties, but employment remained healthy and actually increased in several areas said Charles M. Vessel, labor market economist for the Illinois Department of Employment Security, at Marion, Ill.

Alexander County, in Southern Illinois, was at lost unemployment rate in a long while, at 6.4 percent. Union County drooped to 2.9 percent unemployment, and Massac County was at 4.1 percent. Pulaski remained high on the list of unemployment percentages, at 7.2, but event that total is down form the 8.4 percent mark of a month ago.

Looking for bargains

Many area shoppers interviewed Friday said they expected to spend about the same as last year. Some are scaling back but only a few will spend more that a year ago.

Most were looking for bargains Friday, and turned out in the early hours to take advantage of specials offers by many merchants.

A recent annual holiday survey, one of many conducted, revealed that the average American plans to spend 37 percent less on holiday gifts this year.

The average holiday shopper will spend $773, down from $1,220 last year, according to the Myvesta.org survey.

As many as 44 percent plan to spend under $500.

It's not surprising that consumers are planning to spend less this holiday season, said Steve Rhode, president and co-founder of Myvesta.org. "Due to recent events and the economy heading downhill more people are holding onto their cash rather than spending it."

As the appetite to spend during the holidays seems to have tapered off so has the urge to add new debt to already high credit card balances. According to the national survey the average individual credit card debt fell 14 percent from $2,814 last year to $2,411 this year.

When shopping this holiday season it's important to develop a spending plan and stick with it. The annual Myvesta Holiday Survey revealed some other results:

Fifty-two percent of respondents say they do not carry a balance on their credit cards. That is up from 50 percent last year.

Almost 7 percent of those polled say they do not know how much debt they are carrying on their credit cards. Those aged 25-34 have the highest credit card debt with an average of $3,843 on two cards.

Thirteen percent of those carrying credit cards have five or more cards. Twenty-three percent said they don't carry any credit cards.

Nineteen percent of those polled said they have no idea of how much they are going to spend on the holidays this year. Five percent plan on spending nothing.

Those aged 35-44 plan on spending $889 on holiday gifts, the most of any age group.

Myvesta.org is a financial crisis and treatment center.

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