On the Job: State jobs, unemployment rate tick down

Workforce, new business and medical marijuana coverage and analysis

Posted online
Let’s begin

Springfield Business Journal’s first beat page debuted with the Sept. 12 issue, and like fellow reporter Karen Craigo, it’s now my turn to share news and insights on areas I frequently cover.

Workforce development and the medical marijuana industry are common topics I follow, but as we have a small (yet mighty) staff, I always must be prepared to pursue stories outside those landscapes. For example, when it comes to SBJ’s weekly Open for Business feature, I’m your man.

I’ve spent about a quarter-decade working in the journalism industry (I know, I don’t look that old – thanks!), and am always looking for the next great story.

Maybe you know of one? If so, let’s talk.

Hiring Happenings

Area employers are on tap to participate in job and career fairs this month:

Multi-Industry Job Fair
Oct. 5 | 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Elks Lodge 409, 2223 E. Bennett St.
Key participants: City of Springfield, Dairy Farmers of America, O’Reilly Automotive Inc. and Positronic Industries Inc.

KY3 Career Fair
Oct. 19 | 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Ozark Empire Fairgrounds E-Plex,
3001 N. Grant Ave.
Key participants: City Utilities of Springfield, CoxHealth, Mercy Springfield Communities, Silver Dollar City and T-Mobile.

State jobs, unemployment rate tick down in August

The latest jobs report from the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center saw a decrease in the state’s nonfarm payroll as well as its unemployment rate.

In August, job losses were reported across a range of industries, resulting in a dip of 5,700 from July. 

Government employment fell by 1,900 jobs, while leisure and hospitality shed 1,700 positions. Most industries experienced relatively minor declines but only two gained jobs in August. Those were the educational and health services industry, which added 1,900 jobs, and the trade, transportation and utilities industry, experiencing a boost of 1,100 positions. 

Still, when looking at the job totals compared with a year prior, the August downturn is relatively small. Since August 2021, nonfarm payroll is up nearly 2%, or 55,600 jobs. Most industries have experienced an uptick in available jobs over that same period, with construction (5.7%) and accommodation and food services (5.6%) among those showing the largest gains. 

Now, getting those available jobs to translate to new hires is a challenge that companies have been struggling with for years. We’ve reported on labor shortages ever since the coronavirus pandemic reared its ugly head and likely will continue even once it fully recedes – assuming that day ever happens.

Missouri’s labor force participation rate – the percentage of the population working or actively seeking a job – dropped 0.1% in August to 62.4%. The total is down from 63% a year ago and is on par with the national labor force participation rate. 

COVID impact
Part of that labor force participation data is undoubtedly impacted by COVID and likely will continue to be for years, according to a report published in August by research firm the Brookings Institute. 

Up to 4 million people may be out of work because of long COVID, resulting in at least $170 billion per year in lost wages, according to the report. That’s quite an eye opener, as those wage losses equate to nearly 1% of the total U.S. gross domestic product.

The report estimates 16 million working-age Americans, ages 18-65, have long COVID. The illness can be hard to define, since symptoms are wide-ranging and can last months to years. Symptoms include fatigue, brain fog, joint or muscle pain, chest pain, dizziness and changes in ability to taste or smell. 

I haven’t heard of instances of local workers struggling through this, but as the report made clear, it’s everywhere we look. 

Up and down
The state’s monthly job losses came as the U.S. added 315,000 nonfarm payroll jobs in August, according to the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

However, Missouri’s unemployment rate ticked down to 2.6% from 2.8% in July. The Springfield metropolitan statistical area jobless rate moved up in August, at 2.6%. According to the report, the local MSA’s civilian labor force lost nearly 2,900 jobs.

On the positive side, it’s still up 3,071 jobs from August 2021. 

Likewise, the state unemployment rate continues to remain well below the national jobless mark, which was 3.8% in August. The state has continued to be well below or at the national rate for the past five years, according to the MERIC report.

Weed watch

An initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in Missouri overcame a potential legal hurdle last month that’s cleared the path for the Nov. 8 ballot.

Cole County Circuit Court Judge Cotton Walker dismissed a lawsuit Sept. 9 that sought to block the weed legalization petition in the state. The judge ruled Joy Sweeney, an anti-drug legalization activist who filed the lawsuit, had not proven she was a Missouri citizen.

The Missouri Supreme Court on Sept. 13 declined to take on the case.

Missouri is one of 38 states in the country to green light medical marijuana, passing with 65% approval in 2018. Recreational marijuana is currently legal in 19 states.

Most industry officials I have spoken with this year have expressed confidence that Missouri’s latest marijuana legalization measure, now known as Amendment 3, will pass. Some have predicted a margin similar to the 2018 medical marijuana vote.

One vertically integrated company, Humansville-based Flora Farms LLC, is planning facility growth tied to what officials are counting on being a vote in favor of legalization. Company President Mark Hendren told me back in February about his desire to add another 80,000-square-foot facility to the company’s 120,000 square feet under roof in Humansville among two buildings. He said the project is set to commence this year and could cost upwards of $14 million. It’s a bold move that shows confidence that recreational legalization is not a matter of if, but when.

Contact Mike Cullinan
Phone: 417-616-5851
Email: mcullinan@sbj.net