Economic Development News

Our Ever-Changing Local Economy
Published: Wednesday, October 25, 2017
By: Shaun Sappenfield

In 2007, the Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce amplified their efforts to expand and retain private sector employers as employment levels continued to decline within the state government.  In early 2007, the nation’s unemployment rate was 4.6 percent but the Great Recession was on the verge of its lengthy assault on the United States job market pushing the unemployment rate to 9.1 percent by 2009.  As for Missouri’s unemployment rate, it was virtually identical to the national average and continued to trend accordingly.  Long before the economic downturn, proactive community leaders understood the balance between state government and private sector employment growth was transforming as state government employment began its slow decent in 2000.    

Based on data from Missouri’s Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC), Cole County absorbed a 12 percent decrease in state government jobs from 2006-2016 which equates to 2,060 lost positions.  Even as this decrease was over a ten year period, it is a substantial loss in revenue to the region.  As we fast forward to 2017, Cole County’s unemployment rate continues to hover around 3.5 percent as the state’s average has pushed below 4.0 percent.  In addition to the reductions to employment within state government, these industries also saw declines in employment – construction, manufacturing and finance & insurance.  On the reverse, the leading employment increases have come from administrative & support services, information, and healthcare & social services.

The graph below provides information on employment gains/losses for Cole County, and by comparison Cape Girardeau County, for years 2006-2016. 

As unemployment rates continued to decline beginning in 2010-2011, certain industries began a transition as their employment needs had been reshaped based on a changing economy.  Even as employment improved, customer spending patterns had already transformed due to employment concerns, heavy investment losses, and decreases in discretionary spending as individuals continued to hunker down amidst their anxieties with the economy’s future. 

For our community, the transition in employment was affected by declining local and state tax revenues, severe decline in residential/commercial construction and a general sense of cautiousness related to consumers spending.  Both increases and shifts in employment by industry can be attributed to an aging population, the use and security of data, and general health care services. 

As our local economy continues to rely heavily on employment within state government, the diversity and strength of the private sector has absorbed declines in public sector employment and flexible enough to support ever changing economic employment trends.

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