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The improving employment picture across the U.S. should provide encouragement to job-seekers in the St. Louis region, which has lagged behind the nation during the economic recovery.

If a recent job fair is any indication, many area employers are on the hunt for qualified applicants.

Sponsored by U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, the job fair on Monday at Harris Stowe State University drew more than 100 employers looking for qualified applicants and hundreds more people seeking new opportunities.

Sharon Wilson, a recruiter for the Federal Reserve Bank in St. Louis, was trying to fill information technology openings.

“Right now, (the bank is looking for) individuals who have that IT background,” she said, adding that the St. Louis Fed is especially looking for workers who have IT skills with business training or experience.

Most of the jobs for which she was recruiting require a four-year degree, she said. More than 100 qualified individuals submitted résumés at the event, she added.

Matt Nyberg, supervisor of talent acquisition at managed care provider Centene Inc., was looking to add about 1,000 new employees to the company’s current roster of 8,000 workers. The Clayton headquarters alone has about 200 openings, he said.

Centene’s biggest needs right now are for case management specialists who are registered nurses, Nyberg said. Locally the company also is looking for IT personnel as well as data analysts. Though many of the IT jobs traditionally require a bachelor’s degree, Nyberg said the company also considers applicants who have experience equivalent to a four-year degree.

Joanie Hill, a human resources recruiter at Washington University School of Medicine, was emphatic about whom she needed to hire.

“Nurses, nurses, nurses,” she said. “We need nurses, all kinds,” she added. “RNs, LPNs, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and specialized nurses.”

Other jobs in demand at the school are certified medical coders, IT jobs and highly specialized scientists. While most of the jobs to be filled at the medical school require advanced degrees, Hill also said there were many jobs at the school such as technicians or medical assistants that require only one-year certifications.

Michele Goodrich, recruiter for Bodine Aluminum, was on hand recruiting for skilled machinists in two area facilities. Bodine is wholly owned subsidiary of Toyota Motor Co. that makes cylinder heads for all Toyota engines manufactured in the U.S.

Goodrich was at the fair seeking about 15 machine maintenance workers for the company’s St. Louis and Troy, Mo., plants. The company also is hiring seven tool-and-die maintenance workers for the Troy facility.

Bodine is looking for workers skilled in electrical systems, robotics, hydraulics, pneumatics and precision machine work, Goodrich said. The company will accept workers with on-the job experience or graduates of technical schools, she said.

Several local labor unions were also represented, including Sheet Metal Worker’s Local 36, which is recruiting apprentices.

Demetrius Shim, an apprentice with Local 36, said a strong desire to work was the main qualification.

Billy Crow, an instructor for the apprenticeship program at Local 36, said the number of apprentices the union took on fluctuated with construction activity. Prior to the recession that began in 2007, the union often took in up to 80 apprentices, he said. But 2013 was the first year since 2008 when the union was able to take on a sizable number of apprentices, hiring 40 of them. This year, the union has hired 10 new apprentices so far and hopes to find more.

The metro area’s unemployment rate, as seasonally adjusted by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, fell to 7.3 percent in April from 7.4 percent in March. Though an improvement, it was still more than full percentage point above the U.S. rate.