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Monsanto's Chesterfield Village Research Center

FILE PHOTO: Monsanto's Chesterfield Village Research Center on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. Monsanto said that it will add 675 jobs and invest more than $400 million at its research facility in Chesterfield. Photo by Erik M. Lunsford, elunsford@post-dispatch.com

St. Louis' job market took another small step forward in May in its long slog back to health.

The region added 3,200 jobs in the month, according to new figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, bringing total payroll employment to 1,308,900, after seasonal adjustments. That's the highest figure since Feb. 2009.

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The strongest gains since this time last year have come in the trade, transportation and utilities sector and in education and healthcare. Only government jobs have fallen significantly.

Payroll employment has been generally trending upward for about a year as the local economy has steadily improved. But it's growing slowly. At the current rate it will take another 18 months to grow back the jobs that were lost in the recession.

The figures mostly do not include a wave of big corporate expansions that have been announced in recent months — at Monsanto, Boeing, Charter Communications and Express Scripts, among others — as those companies have not actually begun hiring.

Data on the region's unemployment rate for May will be released July 2. It was 7.4 percent, seasonally adjusted, in April.

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