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Job talk: Local unemployment pain grows in January

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 19, 2010 - January's overall unemployment rate jumped to 10.7 percent in the St. Louis metropolitan area, with Illinois communities the hardest hit, according to preliminary numbers released Friday by the U.S. Department of Labor.

A few communities on the Missouri side of the Mississippi saw jobless rates decrease -- to 7.6 percent in University City and 7.8 percent in O'Fallon, Mo. But unemployment spiked to 19.7 percent in East St. Louis, up from 18 percent in December and 14.5 percent in January 2009. One decade ago, unemployment in East St. Louis was less than half its current rate: 8.5 percent in 2000.

The jobless rate for the metropolitan region was 10 percent in December and 9.3 percent in January 2009.

In general, unemployment rose in 363 of the nation's 372 metropolitan areas, with jobless rates of 10 percent or higher in half of those areas, according to monthly numbers released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Thirty-five metropolitan areas saw unemployment reach 15 percent or higher.

Three metropolitan areas in California recorded the highest unemployment: El Centro, 27.3 percent; Merced, 21.7 percent; and Yuba City, 20.8 percent. The lowest metropolitan jobless rates were in North Dakota: Fargo at 4.8 percent and Bismarck, 4.9 percent.

The largest January increase -- 5.8 percent -- was reported in Rockford, Ill., followed by Peoria's 5.5 percent increase.

Below is a sampling of unemployment rates in the St. Louis region:

 Jan. 2010Dec. 2009Jan. 2009
St. Louis metro area10.79.89.1
O’Fallon, Mo.
St. Louis city11.510.59.3
University City7.69.38.1
East St. Louis19.718.014.5
Granite City14.412.113.3
O’Fallon, Ill.
Source: U.S. Dept. of Labor

Mary Delach Leonard is a veteran journalist who joined the St. Louis Beacon staff in April 2008 after a 17-year career at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where she was a reporter and an editor in the features section. Her work has been cited for awards by the Missouri Associated Press Managing Editors, the Missouri Press Association and the Illinois Press Association. In 2010, the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis honored her with a Spirit of Justice Award in recognition of her work on the housing crisis. Leonard began her newspaper career at the Belleville News-Democrat after earning a degree in mass communications from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where she now serves as an adjunct faculty member. She is partial to pomeranians and Cardinals.

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