Local Job Market — “Somewhere in the Middle”
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ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–Like the old love song Stuck in the Middle with You, the local job market appears somewhere between recession and full recovery.
“What is happening is companies are sitting on a lot of money,” said Michael Holmes Executive Director of the St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment, “A lot of companies have openings. They’re stretching their employees to the max. And they’re not willing to take that risk.”
Compared to before the recession, Holmes says 30,000 fewer people are working in the region, and those with a job are finding their salaries aren’t growing like they used to.
“You don’t see the increase in salaries you used to see when people used to get a raise every year,” Holmes said.
New hires in the St. Louis job market are also finding another grim fact of life — contract work. Instead of a job with health care and retirement benefits, many new hires are being offered two-to-three year contracts with no benefits.
Rising gasoline prices — now bumping near $4 a gallon here — are also putting pressure on employee’s disposable income and on the willingness of companies to hire new workers.
“I think it’s going to affect the bottom line of companies,” Holmes said, “because they have fuel costs and they’re going to raise prices.”
The quandary about where we are, and whether the local job market is getting better or backsliding, was highlighted in two conflicting reports on layoffs just released.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor released February data showing mass layoffs were down in Missouri. (There were seven big layoffs compared to 17 last February.)
Contradicting that good news, a report this week from the State of Missouri warns more future layoffs may be on the horizon. The Missouri Department of Economic Development reports employers across the state have filed eight notices this month warning of some 1,200 layoffs that are planned, compared with 614 planned layoffs last month.
Economist Jacqueline Midkiff with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the report on future layoffs appear accurate, but it may be premature to describe the data as a “trend.”
“One company closing doesn’t make a trend,” Midkiff said, “There could be other factors for that company closing.”
Last week, the state reported Missouri’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 7.4 percent in February. That’s a drop from 7.5 percent in January.