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Missouri's unemployment rate edges higher

by Ryan Pivoney | June 17, 2021 at 4:05 a.m. | Updated June 17, 2021 at 9:29 a.m.

Missouri's unemployment rate increased by a tenth of a percentage in May, from 4.1 percent in April to 4.2 percent in May, restoring the state unemployment level to where it was in March.

State unemployment saw a rise of 1,824 people - from 126,946 in April to 128,770 this May - according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center's monthly jobs report.

"The consistent unemployment rate below 4.5 percent signals a stable and increasingly stronger economy," Director of Workforce Development Mardy Leathers said. "That said, we have fewer new entrants to the workforce, and more leaving the workforce voluntarily, which leads to a very tight labor market. Ensuring workers have access to sustainable employment and opportunities to improve productivity through training and education is critical in the current labor market."

Total statewide employment for May was 2,946,827, an increase of 2,616 jobs from April. However, the labor force also increased - from 3,071,157 in April to 3,075,597 in May - contributing to the additional 1,824 people on unemployment from the previous month.

The national unemployment rate decreased three percentage points, from 6.1 percent in April to 5.8 percent in May.

Regional unemployment data for Jefferson City will be released later this month.

The state is still faring better than a year ago, when the unemployment rate for May 2020 was 9.6 percent.

"With the initial wave of COVID-19-related layoffs now more than a year in the past, the six-figure over-the-year job losses that had characterized the Missouri labor market for the last nine months of 2020 and the first three months of 2021 were replaced with an increase of nearly 200,000 jobs from May 2020 to May 2021," the jobs report states. "Long-term improvement can be expected but short-term shortages of semiconductor chips may hold down employment in manufacturing in the next few months."

Jessica Duren, assistant commissioner for communications and outreach at the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development, said the slight increase in state unemployment appears to be related to a temporary shortage in the supply of semiconductor chips, which has caused production slowdowns in the manufacturing industry and temporary layoffs.

Jefferson City saw a decrease of 200 jobs from April to May. According to the May jobs report, most employment sectors in the metropolitan area remained consistent or increased in number of jobs, except trade, transportation and utilities, which also saw a decrease last April and is down 3,800 jobs statewide this May.

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