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Unemployment drops to 7.9% in Missouri as thousands return to work

Unemployment drops to 7.9% in Missouri as thousands return to work

Soda flows again

Courtney Dallape takes a table's order at the Soda Fountain at Union Station in St. Louis on Tuesday, May 19, 2020. Tuesday was the second day of being open since the restaurant closed a little over two months ago because of the coronavirus. General manager Kelly Gibbs said they neared but never reached the twenty-five percent capacity limit set by the city when they opened Monday. Photo by Colter Peterson,

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri’s unemployment rate fell more than two percentage points to 7.9% in June as people returned to work following the state’s easing of shutdown restrictions in May.

State unemployment stood at 10.1% in May, virtually unchanged from April. The 72,500 increase in jobs last month was driven by retail along with accommodation and food service, which added about 20,000 and 31,000 jobs, respectively, in the past month. However, Missouri retailers were still down almost 14,000 jobs from June 2019, and accommodation and food service had 62,000 fewer jobs than a year ago.

In metro St. Louis, employers added back 25,000 jobs in June as the area emerged from stay-home orders that lifted in late May. Leading the growth, retailers added back 6,200 jobs in the region while leisure and hospitality added back 19,500 jobs. Compared with a year ago, retail was still down by 8,400 jobs, and leisure and hospitality, which includes restaurants, had shed 43,600 jobs.

Hospitals, education and government remained a drag on St. Louis employment in June. Hospitals shed 3,600 jobs, education lost 3,100 jobs and government shrank by 2,200 jobs, led by a drop of 1,600 local government positions.

Meanwhile, data released Thursday shows Missourians filed 16,781 initial unemployment claims last week, the lowest number since the start of the pandemic but still well above normal levels.

The numbers in the state mirror a national trend of small declines in unemployment claims. In Illinois, 37,626 initial claims were filed with the state the week ending July 11, a decline of about 1,400 from the week before. Nationally, regular unemployment claims inched down to 1.3 million, a decline of 10,000.

Regular unemployment rolls continued a slow decline. People approved for unemployment and receiving benefits in Missouri stood at about 195,600 as of July 4, a drop of about 9,500. In Illinois, the unemployment rolls shrank 4,000 that week to about 663,000. Nationally, about 17.3 million people — a 400,000 drop from the prior week — were claiming regular unemployment benefits.

But those on the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, designed for self-employed people who aren’t eligible for regular unemployment, continued inching up through June. Data for the number of people on that program, which lags a week, show nearly 14.3 million Americans were claiming PUA benefits as of June 27, up 400,000 from the week before.

In Missouri, PUA rolls grew by 3,100 to 92,000 as of June 27. In Illinois, program beneficiaries increased by 4,800 to 113,000.

The federal weekly unemployment supplement of $600 paid on top of regular state unemployment benefits, which in Missouri max out at $320 a week, expires July 25.

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