At first glance, the June jobs report from the Missouri Department of Economic Development suggests good news for the statewide work force, but local data shows more people were unemployed for that month.
According to the latest monthly report, nonfarm payroll in Missouri increased by 3,600 jobs, marking the fifth consecutive month of positive job growth for the Show-Me state.
The state’s seasonally adjusted employment rate was 9.1 percent in June, the lowest rate in more than a year, down from 9.3 percent in May and below the national average of 9.5 percent.
The local tale, however, is somewhat different. Though an unemployment rate of 8.4 percent for the month was far better than the state or national average, the region actually saw an uptick in unemployment, with 1,000 more people looking for work, said Bill Dowling, director of the Missouri Career Center, 1514 S. Glenstone Ave. Dowling noted that in May, the Springfield MSA’s unemployment was 7.9 percent.
Across all industries, job seekers clearly outnumber the jobs available, Dowling said.
While Dowling said there has been an uptick in job orders and businesses that are hiring, he said available workers still outnumber jobs.
On Aug. 11, there were 889 job orders in the center’s database for the Springfield MSA, he said, and some of those might be for multiple job openings.
“There’s still about six job seekers available for every job that’s posted,” Dowling said. State and local trends
Statewide, the majority of growth has been seen in construction, which added 1,100 jobs; durable goods manufacturing, which added 2,300 jobs) and transportation, warehousing and utilities, up 2,200 jobs.
Dowling said he has seen job growth in those sectors locally, but he noted that demand for temporary workers is greater than demand for full-time workers.
“Part of that is the fear that the uptick (in the economy) is not going to be sustained,” Dowling said. “While they do have more orders, money supply is still tight.”
Sharon Snow, owner of placement firm Express Personnel Services, agreed that making sure there is a long-term economic recovery is one reason why many companies are looking at temporary staffing.
“It allows them to control their flexible costs, and it allows them to make a quick and sudden change when needs change,” Snow said, pointing to manufacturers that may have a greater demand for goods in one season than in another.
“Business has learned a lot of lessons over the past couple of years, (and running) leaner and meaner is part of it,” she added.
Snow said another contributing factor is uncertainty regarding recently passed legislation that will likely affect health care and unemployment costs, as employers are holding off on adding full-time staff until they know exactly what their costs will be.
Rita Needham, executive director of the Southwest Area Manufacturers Association, said she has seen an increased demand for workers in this region. Though she did not name specific companies, she said all types of manufacturing – except those tied directly to construction – are showing upward hiring trends.
“Manufacturers are busy because they’re getting increased orders,” Needham said. “Many customers let their inventory go down to next to nothing when the economy went south, and you can only do that for so long,” she said.
And while she said many of those jobs go to temporary workers, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as some manufacturers hire temporary workers for all positions initially and later bring them on board for permanent full-time work.
Dowling said hiring remains slow in construction, and Kathy Baer, employment service director at Springfield Contractors Association, agreed.
“I have a lot more people looking for work than I have companies hiring,” Baer said. “Developers just aren’t getting the money to put the projects on the ground, so it’s very slow.”
From her vantage point, Baer said it’s hard to determine whether employment prospects in the construction field are improving locally.
“It is very interesting, because somebody will come in the office and they’ll seem to have quite a bit of work – not big work, but they’re staying busy,” Baer said. “The signals out there are just all over. I can’t figure out what’s going to happen … other than it’s got to get better. It’s just got to.”Help finding work
To help those who can’t find work in their preferred field, the career center has redesigned the way it assists jobless workers.
“We work with everyone who walks through the door … we have them sit down and take an assessment with us first thing,” Dowling explained. “Then, we recommend what we can do right at that point. We want everyone who comes in to leave with something.”
The center also offers 26 classes that can help people prepare for a career in a new field in addition to other courses and programs.
On July 20, Gov. Jay Nixon launched his WorkReadyMissouri program, aimed at helping unemployed Missourians brush up their skills. Under the program, jobless workers who are receiving unemployment benefits can complete on-site occupational training from participating employers and receive a small training allowance in addition to unemployment funds.
“As Missouri’s economic recovery continues to gain momentum, we remain committed to ensuring that every Missourian who wants to work can find suitable employment,” Nixon said in a news release.
Businesses that participate in the program not only have the benefit of training potential employees, they also incur no out-of-pocket costs, the release said.
The program is a collaborative effort of the DED’s Division of Workforce Development and the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations’ Division of Employment Security. Funding from two sources – the U.S. Department of Labor and the Division of Employment Securities’ Special Employment Security fund – cover all costs, including workers’ compensation coverage, the release said.
Job seekers and businesses interested in participating can apply at www.workready.mo.gov