Sharp job losses seen in manufacturing sector

Friday, March 8, 2002

According to a study recently completed by the Missouri Department of Economic Development, all regions of the state saw a dramatic decline in manufacturing employment during a period from October 2000 to September 2001.

The study, conducted by the DED's Economic Research and Information Center, broke the state into 13 economic regions and found that the average decline in manufacturing employment was about 6.2 percent. A total of 24,459 such jobs were lost statewide during the year. Individually, 95 of the state's 115 counties (which includes the city of St. Louis) have experienced some decline in manufacturing employment.

"Missouri has been losing manufacturing jobs at an alarming rate as we suffer from effects of this national recession," said Joseph L. Driskill, director of the Department of Economic Development. "Because manufacturing is such an integral part of our state's economic foundation and is a key to a strong recovery, we examined this situation on a local and regional basis so we have a full understanding of the depth of this problem. And the facts are clear: the loss of manufacturing jobs is a statewide problem impacting all parts of our state."

During the one-year period studied, the largest number of manufacturing jobs were lost in urban areas, however, percentage-wise, the higher losses occurred in non-metropolitan areas. The St. Louis metro region lost 5,936 manufacturing jobs, while the Kansas City metro region lost 3,887 jobs in this sector. Although the St. Louis region had the largest number of lost manufacturing jobs, percentage-wise its drop of 3.8 percent was the lowest in the state.

The job losses in Saline County during the report period were listed at 966, or 35.2 percent of the total number of jobs. The percentage losses of neighboring counties were:

* 12.7 percent in Chariton County

* 9 percent in Cooper County

* 14.5 percent in Howard County

* 9.5 percent in Lafayette County

* 5.6 percent in Pettis County

"Our goal is not to alarm anyone, but rather to provide reliable information -- a red flag -- that can be used to make us aware of the situation and work toward a long-term strategy for reversing this trend," Driskill said. "There is no one single action that can be taken to bring us immediate results. To address this crisis, we must work together with business, community, economic development and governmental leaders across the state to take steps that will shore up Missouri's manufacturing base."

Saline County was not the only county in the state to see significant losses, however. The report shows that 16 counties lost over one-fifth of their manufacturing employment bases. Mississippi, Shelby, Dekalb and Daviess counties also lost more than 30 percent of their manufacturing jobs. Other counties losing more than 20 percent were Douglass, Macon, Polk, Wright, Oregon, Grundy, Dent, Scotland, Scott, Johnson, and Wayne.

Driskill said that because manufacturing jobs tend to be higher-paying, the loss of those jobs has a greater impact than losing other types of employment. It is also difficult for those who have lost manufacturing jobs to find new employment comparable to their former positions.

"As long as our manufacturing base is on the decline it will be very difficult for Missouri to experience a significant economic recovery," Driskill said . "Over the next few weeks we intend to assess this situation to determine how much this statewide decline is tied to the national recession and what steps can to be taken on a community, regional, statewide and national basis to reverse this very troubling trend."

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