St. Louis Fed: unemployment drops but job growth tepid
Unemployment in the St. Louis region is the lowest it’s been in years, but job growth is still below the national average.
That’s according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis’ fourth quarter Burgundy Report on economic conditions, released Friday.
The St. Louis zone, which includes eastern Missouri and southern Illinois, had an average unemployment rate of 5.2 percent in the third quarter. That’s the lowest it’s been since the second quarter of 2007.
However, job growth remained sluggish. The report found job growth was slightly higher in St. Louis and Springfield, Mo. than in the second quarter, but it slowed in Columbia, Jefferson City, and Cape Girardeau.
"I think the St. Louis economy continues to make good improvement," said St. Louis Fed business economist and research officer Kevin Kliesen. "Certainly there are pockets where we see significant strengths and there are areas where there is some weakness."
Among the findings:
- Manufacturing employment growth increased slightly in Missouri while it dropped in southern Illinois.
- The employment sectors with the most growth in the Fed’s St. Louis zone were leisure and hospitality and transportation.
- The residential housing market strengthened in St. Louis with a nearly 12 percent increase in sales over the same period in 2014, but there was no increase in Springfield, Jefferson City or Columbia.
- Agriculture production of corn fell in both Missouri and Illinois as commodity prices dropped. The price of cropland also dropped in both states after years of significant increases.
The Fed’s survey of business contacts found that a little more than 50 percent expect local economic conditions to improve next year. Kliesen said that’s a good sign.
Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman