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Where Did All the Workers Go?

The labor force across Missouri dropped by nearly 40,000 workers during the first quarter of this year, yet nearly 30,000 jobs were created.

The labor force across Missouri dropped by nearly 40,000 workers during the first quarter of this year, yet almost 30,000 jobs were created.

The state released the latest unemployment report earlier this week, showing non-farm payrolls increased by 4,800 during March. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate held steady at 7.4 percent.

Unlike for the January and February data, the Missouri Department of Economic Development released the March numbers on the same day, revealing that the labor force dropped by 8,587.

To be considered unemployed in the government data, a person must be actively seeking a job.

Politicians will promote the total of 28,900 jobs created during the first quarter. But during the same period, 38,657 workers left the labor market in Missouri. Where did they all go?

A drop in the labor force combined with a fall in the unemployment rate and increasing payrolls is not out of the ordinary, according James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

The total number of people in the U.S. labor force has been on a downward trend since 2000, Bullard told a handful of reporters gathered at the bank last week. 

"I would not expect labor participation to move very far off of that downward trend," Bullard said, following a question by Missouri Journal.

On the other side of the state, the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City released research this week examining the decline in labor force participation nationally, noting the decline is likely to dampen the potential labor supply of the economy, since many workers have permanently left the labor force.

Nationally, labor force participation fell from 66 percent in 2007 to 64.1 percent in 2011, according to the report. The U.S. labor force dropped faster than in any preceding four-year period on record.

"As these workers return to the labor force, their re-entry willl put upward pressure on both the unemployment rate and the labor force participation rate," writes Willem Van Zandweghe, senior economist at the Kansas City Fed, noting some workers will return as the economy recovers.

Mohamed El-Erian, CEO of the global investment management firm PIMCO, said last week that the low workorce numbers are worrisome during a presentation held at the St. Louis Fed downtown.

"It suggests we are still in the middle of an economic crisis in this country," El-Erian said.

By Brian R. Hookbrhook@missourijournal.com, (314) 482-7944

Hook is editor of Missouri Journal, which tracks the economy across the Show-Me State

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RDBet May 07, 2012 at 07:01 PM
Jason, Or in other words - the boomer generation has got theirs' and to heck with everyone else. But we will give you younger ones a good lecture/browbeating/scapegoatng for all the societal ills. Bootstraps and what not. Seriously, keep hanging in there Jason. Something will eventually open up. Good luck.
Jason Charney May 08, 2012 at 08:26 PM
If you are that critical of technology and progress, go join an Anabaptist group. Perhaps a few months in Amish country will change your mind.
Jason Charney May 08, 2012 at 08:40 PM
"Or in other words - the boomer generation has got theirs' and to heck with everyone else. But we will give you younger ones a good lecture/browbeating/scapegoatng for all the societal ills. Bootstraps and what not." For the most part, yes. However, there are quite a bit of Boomer who are on the receiving end of the Recession in that their savings, retirement, and credit were wiped out. They're not willing to look into how they got there unless some right-wing talk show host write a book which recants their manufactured statements they repeat constantly on their radio show or TV show. On the other hand, trying to look at it from the left view seems more interested in establishing social democracy that trying to boost the courage of the Democratic party to tell the corporate lobbyist who encourage unemployment through outsourcing and weakening the domestic workforce in favor of globalized profit. (Perhaps that is a bit off tangent.) Regardless the Chomskys and Zinns of the world need to step up to the plate and encourage making some changes instead of talking about how they'd do it. Lead by example really. We need people to actually be progressive in encouraging starting new businesses, not just in the chic downtown/eclectic areas of the city but elsewhere in this region.
Jason Charney May 08, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Florissant for example has too many beauty supply shops and barely any corporate workplaces. It's an imbalanced diet of too much cake and not enough bread. You look at places like Brentwood, Maryland Heights, Des Peres, and Clayton. Sure they got Wal-Marts and Targets and big box stores. But the number of places you can get your nails done is countable on two hands. What really stands out here is the amount of OCCUPIED OFFICE SPACE that is in these area. What do we have North of I-270. Practically nothing like that. Any why aren't we building office space? Why aren't we filling commerical property with businesses? Why is it so much more important for a new Wal-Mart to be built in our area rather than office buildings to attract IT firms, attorney practices, CPA companies, startups, and corporate headquarters? Our town needs to stop getting its nails done and put people back to work locally rather than 10 or 20 miles down the road. These are things worth constructing. Best Buy will likely be out of business next year, so why waste our energy on building big box stores and not on corporate office space? I sure as heck would like not to commute more than 30 minutes from my home than stay home. It's not like I'm asking for a window office in Malibu. Not every new business needs a cash register. I wish Mayor Tom Schnider would figure that out.
William Braudis July 13, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Take it from an old retiree, when you finish college you are of no value during this time of un-employment. Ask yourself, why would an establish organization take on the expense of training a newbee when there are qualified people looking for work and possibly at a reduced salary ? When things get back to normal under the Republican Party entry level jobs will open for the new graduates.

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