Economic Development News

Local Unemployment Rate Continues Its Decline
Published: Tuesday, December 22, 2015
By: Shaun Sappenfield

For all the novice economists that follow the U.S., state and local unemployment news, you have obviously noticed a steady decline in all three areas since 2010.  The overall economy has been slow to recover since the great recession began in late 2007, which resulted from the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis together with increasing consumer debt.   Since 2010, the overall economy has been gradually improving as Americans regain their consumer confidence, and as a result, businesses are now more willing to add jobs and make investments. 

In 2015 alone, the nation’s unemployment rate has fallen from 5.7% in January 2015 to 5.0% for October 2015.  Missouri’s unemployment rate for the same period has fallen from 5.5% to 5.0%.  Here in Cole County, our non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for October 2015 was 3.2%.  Cole County has not experienced unemployment levels this low since 2003. 

Unemployment Rates
YEAR U.S. Missouri Jefferson 
City MSA
2010 9.6 9.2 7.5 6.6
2011 8.9 7.4 6.0 5.3
2012 8.1 6.7 5.5 4.8
2013 7.4 6.3 5.6 5.0
2014 6.2 5.4 4.7 4.1
2015 5.0



*Jefferson City MSA
(Cole, Callaway, Moniteau & Osage Counties)

But declining unemployment has presented new challenges that directly or indirectly affect us all.  The positives offer higher consumer confidence, increased discretionary and non-discretionary consumption, increased tax revenues, and a robust, more stable economy.  The nation’s leading economic indicators such as the stock market, retail sales, new housing starts, manufacturing activity and gross domestic product (GDP) have been affected in positive manor by employment gains over the past few years. 

In contrast, falling unemployment can put an unwanted burden on employers who are actively seeking to attract and retain a quality workforce.  This is happening in many areas of the country, and our own local economy is not immune to this effect.  For some employers, low unemployment diminishes an active labor pool and creates competition between employers seeking quality employees.  This potentially affects an employer’s production capabilities and quality control and increases the costs associated with training.  To combat these issues, some employers have become more aggressive by offering flexible hours, increasing entry-level wages, and increasing paid leave and over-time pay. 

As with any local economy, possessing a quality and obtainable workforce is imperative to retaining and attracting industry which drives community growth and sustainability.  As mentioned, our community is experiencing historically low levels of unemployment which offers economic stability but also creates a separate layer of concerns for the businesses that provide economic security to our community. 

As most will agree, low unemployment provides a far greater benefit to the overall economy than the alternative.  But in the short term, certain hurdles have arisen which challenges employers attempting to maintain profit margins and control production costs.  Economic conditions spawned by the Great Recession have retreated, and this reversal has reinforced many local economies and offers new options for unemployed and under-employed.  Over time, employers will adapt to the current labor market conditions but it may require wage increases which has been one the lagging pieces to a full economic recovery.

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