The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

November 10, 2012

Joplin unemployment falls below 6 percent for first time in years

More working now in Joplin than when unemployment was below 4 percent

JOPLIN, Mo. — Though the Joplin unemployment rate has been lower in the past, never have as many people been working in Jasper and Newton counties as right now.

More people were employed in the two-county Joplin metropolitan area in September than in April 2007, when the unemployment rate was 3.9 percent, because the labor force is larger now.

“There are more people employed than really we’ve ever had,” said Rob O’Brian, president of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce.

There were 82,279 people employed in the Joplin metro area in September, compared with just under 81,000 in April 2007, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In September, the unemployment rate for the Joplin metro area also fell below 6 percent for the first time since December 2008, when the recession was beginning.

The 5.3 percent unemployment rate in September was nearly a full percentage point better than the 6.2 percent rate in August and a 2.2 percent improvement from last September, according to federal figures. The year-over-year change for the metro area ranked 12th best in the nation.

The unemployment rate in the Joplin metro area reached its recession high in June 2009, at 9.2 percent. The five-year low was 3.9 percent in March 2007. With a work force of more than 80,000, each percent represents more than 800 jobs. With the unemployment rate dropping nearly 4 percent from that 2009 high, that translates into nearly 3,200 people back at work.

Rebounding

Employment growth can be attributed in part to continuing efforts to recover from the May 2011 tornado, with more contractors and builders in the area, but also to general economic improvement happening statewide, experts say.

John Fougere, spokesman for the Missouri Department of Economic Development, said Joplin’s economy not only reflects rebuilding from the storm, but it also mirrors statewide improvements.

“It’s encouraging to see Joplin following the state’s rebounding economy,” Fougere said. “The overall state economy has seen a steadily falling unemployment rate.”

Missouri’s unemployment rate in September also was at its lowest point since December 2008, at 6.9 percent. Fougere said more than 46,000 new jobs have been added in Missouri in 2011 and 2012 to date.

Springfield also had an unemployment rate of 5.3 percent in September, while the Fayetteville-Rogers-Springdale, Ark., metro area, which also includes McDonald County, Mo., was at 4.9 percent. Jefferson City, Columbia and St. Joseph all had unemployment rates of 5 percent or less.

Fougere said construction and manufacturing jobs were up in Joplin. There also was job growth in areas including wholesale and retail sales, finance, insurance, health care and education.

O’Brian and Fougere each attributed the growth in the labor pool to people who previously had stopped looking for a job now rejoining the work force.

Fougere said, “If they perceive the economy’s better, they re-enter the labor force.”

O’Brian also said some employers are now finding it difficult to locate skilled workers.

“Anytime people can see an opportunity to enhance their skills, that’s a good thing,” O’Brian added. He also encouraged those seeking work to visit a Missouri Career Center to take a test to receive a Career Readiness Certificate based on their skills. He said it helps potential employees and employers.

Jasen Jones, executive director of the Workforce Investment Board of Southwest Missouri, said most construction jobs and some others are related to tornado recovery. He said manufacturing is rebounding, with companies such as Modine and Able Manufacturing hiring this year, but that sector is not yet at its pre-recession level in the area.

Jones also said local manufacturing is broad-based, and jobs aren’t tied to a specific industry, and therefore the area wasn’t as badly affected by the recession as areas that are heavily dependent upon one sector, such as automotive.

“We produce the components that have demand during a recession,” Jones added. “Overall, Joplin’s in a good position.”

Work force growth

According to state and chamber officials, a number of jobs have been added locally that are not related to tornado recovery, and more are coming. Some of these jobs may not be reflected in the latest unemployment numbers, including:

• Bemis Co., which manufactures flexible packaging in the Joplin-Webb City Industrial Park, recently announced plans to hire 66 employees. A company official said 23 of those jobs have been filled already.

• Coca-Cola Bottling Co. announced in July it will build a new $5.5 million distribution center that will open next year and add 45 employees.

• The Blue Buffalo Co., a pet-food maker, announced last month that it would invest $85 million to build a plant in Joplin and hire up to 150 people. Production is set to begin in 2015.

Jones said the job growth also has occurred in transportation, which includes trucking, logistics and storage. Call center jobs and other customer service jobs have been added, too.

Freeman, Mercy

Health care is another sector where employment is growing, officials say.

Dozens of construction workers are employed building the new Mercy Hospital Joplin near Hearnes Boulevard and Interstate 44, but until it opens in 2015 there will be a limited number of openings for the hospital itself, said human resources manager Colette St. Peter. She said the hospital is currently continuing to hire nurses, security officers and physical and occupational therapists.

She said that will change as the opening draws closer.

“We’re anticipating that in the coming months there will be preliminary work done to anticipate what our staffing is and what we will need when we open in 2015,” St. Peter said. She said the recruitment and hiring will ramp up in advance of the hospital’s opening.

Freeman Health System has experienced increased demand after the tornado. It responded by spending around $15 million to remodel and equip the fifth and sixth floors of the Gary and Donna Hall Tower at Freeman Hospital West.

The fifth floor is a cardiac medical unit that now has 72 employees. The sixth floor has a transitional care unit that just opened and a surgical intensive care unit, which will open soon. The sixth floor will have around 70 more employees. Each floor has 24,000 square feet of space.

Deborah Chiodo, chief of human resources for Freeman, said those positions are in addition to normal hiring.

“I can tell you so far this year, we have hired 244 RNs, compared to 282 last year,” Chiodo said of registered nurses. She said Freeman has hired 44 new doctors since May 2011.

Besides doctors and nurses, Chiodo said there also are positions in food service, housekeeping, information technology, maintenance, unit secretaries, radiology technicians and many other categories.

“You can think of us almost like a small city,” she said.

Unemployment rates

Here is a comparison of unemployment rates for September 2012:

United States—7.9 percent

Missouri—6.9 percent

Kansas—5.9 percent

Oklahoma—5.2 percent

Arkansas—7.1 percent

Columbia, Mo.     4.2 percent

Jefferson City, Mo.—4.9 percent

Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, Ark.—4.9 percent

St. Joseph, Mo.—5.0 percent

Joplin, Mo.—5.3 percent

Springfield, Mo. —5.3 percent

Tulsa, Okla. —5.3 percent

Kansas City, Mo.-Kan.—6.1 percent

Wichita, Kan.—6.2 percent

St. Louis, Mo.-Ill.—7.0 percent

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Pseudoephedrine sales in Pittsburg to require prescription

    Starting Friday, those who purchase pseudoephedrine and related products in Pittsburg will need a prescription to do so.

    July 22, 2014

  • Cherokee County Commission accepts general counsel's resignation

    Kevin Cure, who has served as general counsel for the Cherokee County Commission since 2005, submitted a handwritten resignation to the board on Monday in the aftermath of a landfill controversy.

    July 22, 2014

  • Mike Pound 2010.jpg Mike Pound: Parents can get help with school supplies

    I don’t know much about demographics other than the fact that I no longer belong to a “targeted demographic.” When I was younger, I was bombarded by commercials and ads from companies that were trying to sell me things that I not only needed but wanted.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jasper County Commission reviews traffic plans

    The Jasper County Commission will hold public hearings today and Thursday on a number of traffic changes proposed in the county. No one spoke when the first hearing was held Tuesday as part of the regular commission meeting, according to Jim Honey, Eastern District associate commissioner.

    July 22, 2014

  • Joplin school board reviews audit procedures

    A team from the Missouri State Auditor’s Office has begun requesting documents in its task to audit the operations and management of the Joplin School District, the audit manager told the Board of Education on Tuesday.

    July 22, 2014

  • Joplin man to stand trial in accident case

    A passenger accused of causing an accident on Interstate 44 in Joplin that injured three others as well as himself was ordered bound over for trial Tuesday on three felony counts.

    July 22, 2014

  • r072214soroptimist3.jpg Volunteers spend week providing camp experience to foster youths

    Karen McGlamery is a massage therapist. Terri Falis-Cochran is a finance manager. Jane McCaulley is a retired art teacher. But for a week each summer, the three are among dozens of area residents who become camp counselors.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • Neosho school board hires company to manage substitutes

    Citing its hopes of shifting health care costs and utilizing more time from retired teachers, the Neosho Board of Education granted a contract Monday to a temporary employee company to manage its substitute teacher program.

    July 22, 2014

  • Main Street TIF district study to begin

    A measure that allows the city to charge its $15,000 in administrative costs for studying a proposal to create a tax increment financing district on South Main Street was approved Monday by the Joplin City Council.

    July 21, 2014

  • Carthage man pleads guilty in sexual abuse case

    A Carthage man pleaded guilty Monday to sexual abuse of a 12-year-old girl in a plea agreement that would cap the length of his prison term at no more than 15 years.

    July 21, 2014

Must Read
Sports
Photos


Facebook
Poll

A state lawmaker who is one of two doctors in the Oklahoma Legislature is insisting that unaccompanied immigrant minors being housed at Fort Sill be quarantined. Do you think those kinds of measures should be taken?

A. Yes.
B. No.
     View Results
Opinion
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter