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St. Louis unemployment rate falls as labor force shrinks

St. Louis unemployment rate falls as labor force shrinks

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NAACP holds food distribution and voter event in St. Louis

Brandon Dickson loads boxes of food in the back of a car during a drive through food distribution event held by the St. Louis County NAACP at the Omega Center, 3900 Goodfellow Boulevard, on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. Volunteers from the St. Louis chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. handed out food as well as free masks. Additionally, pamphlets containing information on how to vote as well as yard signs were given out in an effort to encourage attendees to vote. Photo by Christine Tannous, ctannous@post-dispatch.com

ST. LOUIS — After showing no decline in August, the St. Louis area’s unemployment rate fell by two percentage points to 5.8% in September, according to figures released this week by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

The area’s unemployment rate stood at 7.8% in both July and August and peaked at 11.6% in both April and May, according to the Fed. The rate was at 3.4% in March, near a record low, before pandemic-related shutdowns threw millions of Americans out of work.

Nearly 38,000 people dropped out of the metro area’s labor force, according to new Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers, shrinking the pool of area workers to 1.43 million in September from 1.47 million the month before. When people leave the labor force, they are no longer counted as unemployed.

The number of people counted as unemployed in the region fell to 78,000 last month from 117,000 in August, a drop of 39,000.

Missouri’s unemployment rate is estimated to have dropped last month below 5%, one of the lowest in the country. But much of the decline in the jobless rate was attributable to some 70,000 people leaving the labor force. In Illinois, the jobless rate fell to 9.8% from 11.1% in August.

Missouri also released figures Thursday showing September job openings in the state fell to 46,665, almost 10,000 fewer than the same month last year. Demand for truck drivers and freight and material movers increased, but most professions had less demand. There were 3.1 unemployed Missourians per job posting last month, compared to 1.8 per opening a year ago.

Meanwhile, new Department of Labor figures released Thursday show workers filed 7,763 new jobless claims in Missouri last week, down about 1,000 from the average over the last four weeks. Those on Missouri’s regular unemployment rolls fell by almost 5,000 to 53,000 as of Oct. 17.

Declines were lower in the emergency federal unemployment programs put in place for the pandemic. Missourians on the federal program for self-employed workers fell 4,000 to 47,000 as of Oct. 10. Those on the federal 13-week extended benefits program, used by people who exhaust regular state unemployment, stayed flat at 48,000. The total number of people on all three programs in Missouri as of Oct. 10 stood at 153,000, down from about 160,000 Oct. 3.

In Illinois, 55,000 people filed initial unemployment claims last week, up by nearly 8,000 from the week prior. Illinois is re-imposing restrictions on bars, restaurants and gatherings in response to surging coronavirus cases in the state. Missouri has declined to issue statewide restrictions as cases surge across the Midwest.

Those on the state’s regular unemployment rolls fell by almost 30,000 to 373,000 as of Oct. 17. But many in the state are moving to the federal extended benefits program, which saw its rolls in Illinois jump by 40,000 to 150,000 as of Oct. 10.

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