Missouri Job Growth Continues Upward

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COLUMBIA - The Missouri Department of Economic Development released data Tuesday which said the state created 6,000 jobs in April. The report also increased the estimate of March job creation from 4,800 jobs to 6,800 jobs.

The department said the state has created 35,500 jobs so far this year. "Missouri's job growth of 35,500 in the first four months of this year is also better than the growth of all eight surrounding states in the same time period," Director of Communication John Fougere said.

April's job growth led to a drop of one-tenth of a percentage point in the state's unemployment rate to 7.3 percent. That rate is the lowest it has been in the last 40 months. The national unemployment rate for April was 8.1 percent. Missouri's unemployment rate has been below the national rate since last May.

He also cited a collection of layoff data from major companies in Missouri. "Last month, layoffs by major companies in Missouri were down 71 percent. That's a huge sign of how we're doing as a state."

Those major companies include IBM, which said last year it would hire 800 people for its Columbia service delivery center. "IBM is another example of big companies looking at us as a good place to expand into," he said.

Fougere said the health care and auto manufacturing industries are the leading job creators for the state. Fougere said auto manufacturing, in particular, is "really taking off, with Ford and GM announcing the addition of more than 3,200 jobs at plants in Missouri last year."

"What a lot of people don't realize is that for a time in the past, the state of Missouri produced almost as many cars as Detroit. Now, though it is slow, we are heading into that direction again," he said. "Manufacturing created 6,000 jobs last year. This year, they've already created 7,000 jobs."

Fougere added that the construction industry also is creating a lot of jobs this year. "The construction industry is on the rise because of two things: the housing industry, and the warm weather. We had a mild winter and mild spring this year, so that obviously helps out construction companies," he said.

The department projects the health care industry to be three of the top five largest job creators by the end of the year.

Fougere also said foreign exports are excelling. "State exports are up 15.4 percent through the first quarter of 2012. That increase continues a record-setting trend which comes after a record $14.1 billion in state export sales just last year."

"That's a sign that foreign countries are looking at us as a state that is worth investing money in," he said.

The state already has $3.96 billion in exports through the first four months of 2012. Transportation equipment, chemicals, and food and kindred products make up 54.5 percent of the state's exports so far. Transportation equipment alone counts for $1.1 billion.