Payrolls drop as Missouri misses release dates

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As the jobless rate climbed, the state failed again to hit the scheduled release date for the jobs data.

The unemployment rate inched up to 7.2 percent in July from 7.1 percent during June, according a press release sent shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday.

The short release by the Missouri Department of Economic Development blames the heat and the drought for a 7,700 drop in nonfarm payrolls.

Despite being scheduled for release and citing “data released today,” the department did not post the latest unemployment data, making it the fourth time this year it missed the release date.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, meanwhile, toured the state touting jobs. His first stop in the morning was at a groundbreaking ceremony in Kansas City.

“We will continue to fight for every job, every day to put Missourians back to work and to keep our economy moving forward,” the governor said, citing a plan by Freightquote.com Inc. to bring 1,225 new jobs from across the border in Kansas into Missouri and build a 200,000 square-foot facility.

On the other side of the state in Franklin County in the afternoon, Nixon was on hand to announce that Henniges Automotive plans to create 200 new jobs when it adds an additional production line.

“Great companies like Henniges Automotive are creating jobs and growing our economy,” he said.

Anticipating that the state might, yet again, miss the scheduled release for the newest labor data, Missouri Journal filed another Sunshine Law request to receive the numbers Tuesday morning.

The department has no more than three business days to respond to this latest request.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is set to release its version of the labor data Friday morning.

Last month, the data revealed that in addition to the nonfarm payrolls in Missouri dropping by 4,100 in June, the civilian labor force also dropped by 12,603 compared to the previous month.

It is possible for the labor force and the unemployment rate to drop simultaneously, since a person must be actively seeking employment to be included among the unemployed by the government.

By Brian R. Hook[email protected], (314) 482-7944

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Copyright 2012 Missouri Journal. All rights reserved.

Labor force drops in metro areas across Missouri

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Out of eight metropolitan areas across the state, the labor force increased in only two markets.

U.S. Department of Labor on Twitter

Missouri Department of Economic Development on Twitter

Joplin and St. Joseph each posted an extra 500 people in the workforce in June compared to the same month last year, according to new data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The unemployment rate, meanwhile, dropped in every metro area in the state, according to the statistical unit in the U.S. Department of Labor.

The jobless rate fell from 6.2 percent to 6.1 percent in Joplin and from 7.7 percent to 5.7 percent in St. Joseph, when comparing year-over-year numbers.

The labor force in St. Louis, however, fell by 17,200 in June compared to the same month last year, while the unemployment rate fell from 9.2 percent to 7.6 percent. In Kansas City, the labor force fell by 8, 600 and the jobless rate tumbled from 9.2 percent to 7.6 percent. And in Springfield, the jobless rate fell from 8.1 percent to 6.2 percent, while the labor force dropped by 1,400.

The labor force also dropped in Columbia, Jefferson City and Cape Girardeau compared to last year.

People leave the labor force for any number of reasons, including everything from retirement to layoffs. To be counted as unemployed, however, a person must actively be seeking employment.

As reported last month by Missouri Journal, the unemployment rate in the state fell to 7.1 percent in June compared to 8.7 percent last year in the same month.  The labor force, however, fell by 34,468 during the same time, according to data from the Missouri Department of Economic Development.

By Brian R. Hook[email protected], (314) 482-7944

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Copyright 2012 Missouri Journal. All rights reserved.

Missouri follows national trend for foreclosures

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Similar to national results, foreclosures increased in two out of three metropolitan areas in the state.

RealtyTrac Inc. on Twitter

Foreclosure activity increased 10 percent in the St. Louis area during the first half of this year, according to new research from RealyTrac Inc.

In Kansas City, foreclosures increased by 18.3 percent compared to the second half of 2011.

In Springfield, however, foreclosure activity — including default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions —  fell by 14.5 percent.

Across the country, 59 percent of metro areas posted higher foreclosure starts in the first half of this year compared to the second half of last year.

“Markets with increasing foreclosure starts will likely see more distressed inventory for sale in the form of short sales and and bank-owned properties in the second half of the year,” said Brandon Moore, CEO of RealtyTrac, adding that foreclosures are welcome news for prospective buyers.

By Michelle Boyer[email protected]

Brian R. Hook[email protected], (314) 482-7944 contributed

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Copyright 2012 Missouri Journal. All rights reserved.

Missouri ranks fifth for lower jobless claims

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Fewer workers were sent home without a job, placing Missouri in the top five across the country.

U.S. Department of Labor on Twitter

Missouri Department of Economic Development on Twitter

The state reported the fifth largest decrease in the nation, with unemployment claims dropping 1,339, according to data by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Initial weekly jobless claims dropped by 8,016 in California, 3,907 in New York, 2,160 in Georgia, and 1,996 in Illinois.  Nationally, initial claims were 386,000, a 750 decrease from the previous week.

Missouri also ranked fifth last week with a drop of 1,339, according to data released last Thursday.

Overall, layoff notices have been down this month.

Woodbridge announced plans to layoff 30 workers near Kansas City in Clay County, on Tuesday, according to a new Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification filing with the Missouri Department of Economic Development.

The filing, which is required by certain employers in advance of mass layoffs, was the first this month compared to three layoff notices in May, affecting 435 employees, seven notices in April, affecting 886 employees, and nine notices in March, affecting 2,429 workers.

Earlier this month, the state reported the unemployment rate remained at 7.3 percent during May.

The number of employees in the labor force, however, fell by 22,541 during May compared to the same month last year. To be counted as unemployed, a person must actively be seeking a job.

By Brian R. Hook[email protected], (314) 482-7944

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Copyright 2012 Missouri Journal. All rights reserved.

Missouri among top states for corporate welfare

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States are using an increasing amount of money withheld from workers’ paychecks for subsidies, and Missouri is among the nation’s top offenders.

More than $700 million a year is funneled to businesses in 16 states, according to research by Good Jobs First, a public policy organization.

The study finds that as states try to keep jobs within their border by handing out money to some of the country’s largest corporations, states may be giving away too much in tax incentives.

“You assume that money goes to schools or libraries, but in these states it goes to the employers,” Kasia Tarczynska, the Good Jobs First analyst who examined the subsidies, told Missouri Watchdog.

Among the 50 states, Good Jobs First reports there are just five programs allowing employers to keep 100 percent of employee’s state withholding taxes, and Missouri accounts for two of those — the Missouri Quality Jobs Program and the Missouri Automotive Manufacturing Jobs Act.

The automotive act was enacted in 2010 to keep Ford Motor Co. from closing its manufacturing plant in Claycomo, near Kansas City. It allows the automaker to keep the state withholdings for 10 years, and it also allows suppliers to keep their workers’ states withholding taxes for five years.

The recipients of the state incentives must invest at least $50,000 per existing job to qualify.

Over the next decade, the program is expected to cost the state $150 million in lost tax revenue.

Ford Motor Co. on Twitter

As reported by Missouri Journal earlier this year, Ford will still qualify for the incentives even after announcing its plan to layoff 1,222 employees.

The auto manufacturer, however, will not be eligible for the incentives until it brings back the workers, which is expected sometime next year.

Ford has already received $1.85 million in other incentives, according to documents released following a Sunshine Law request. Ford received $650,000 for job training last fiscal year and $1.2 million this fiscal year.

The much broader Missouri Quality Jobs Program lets small and expanding businesses keep 100 percent of withholdings up to five years as long as they create 20 new jobs in rural areas and 40 in urban areas.

Technology firms retain up to 6 percent of state withholding taxes for five years, with some firms retaining 7 percent. The businesses must employ 10 workers to qualify, while so-called “high-impact” firms — with high current employment and projected job growth — must have 100 workers.

The cost of the incentive program has risen from $7 million in 2008 to more than $51 million in 2011, according to Good Jobs First, which also provides an online search for corporate subsidies.

For the Missouri Quality Jobs Program, 159 businesses received incentives for 189 projects in 2011, according to the annual report published by the Missouri Department of Economic Development.

Express Scripts Inc. on Twitter

The Missouri General Assembly created the job incentives program in 2005 when Express Scripts Inc. considered moving its headquarters.

After the legislation passed, Express Scripts executives decided to keep the company’s headquarters in the St. Louis region, and the company has since collected around $17 million in taxpayer-funded subsidies.

Express Scripts was criticized for outsourcing many of its U.S. jobs overseas. Meanwhile, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported last year, the company’s profits soared 325 percent between 2004 and 2010.

In the battle to keep companies, the squeaky wheel continues to get more grease, said Peter Mueser, a labor economist at the University of Missouri. He said state legislators are likely to enact more incentives.

“They’re not going to lower taxes on the ones who plan to be here long term,” Mueser told Missouri Watchdog. “This gives firms an incentive to try to move so they can be eligible for those subsidies.”

Earlier this year, the Missouri House Committee on Government Oversight and Accountability questioned leaders from the state’s economic development department after its own report showed that less than 6,000 jobs had been created, although more than 23,000 new jobs were promised.

Missouri Sen. Bill Stouffer, a Republican from Napton, told Missouri Watchdog he has become less enthusiastic about corporate subsidies, comparing the economic development practice to extortion.

“I think the legislature should foster a friendly business climate for everybody. That climate should be fair with an opportunity for growth,” said Stouffer, who has served the term-limited maximum of eight years in the Missouri Senate and is among three GOP candidates running for secretary of state.

“I don’t like blackmail. If we continue giving it away, we’re going to continue to get blackmailed.”

By Johnny Kampis, Missouri Watchdog, [email protected]

Brian R. Hook[email protected], (314) 482-7944, contributed

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Kansas City ranks in top 10 for metro economy

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Downtown Kansas City

The local economic ranking of almost every metropolitan area across Missouri increased.

Kansas City ranked in the top 10, according to a listing of 366 metro areas across the country by Policom Corp., an economic research firm.

The annual ranking, assessing the  ”economic strength” of local economies, moved Kansas City into eighth place, up from 16 last year.

To determine how an economy has behaved over an extended period, the study measures 23 different factors over a 20-year period.

The St. Louis metro area also rose in the rankings, climbing from 127 last year to 93 this year.

Springfield was the only metro area with a drop, falling to 206 this year from 199 last year.

Columbia ranked 111, up from 136; Jefferson City placed 172, up from 210; St. Joseph placed 177, up from 222; Cape Girardeau ranked 219, up from 221; and Joplin came in at 246, up from 275.

A city must have at least 50,000 residents to be counted as a metro area by Policom.

By Michelle Boyer[email protected]

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Copyright 2012 Missouri Journal. All rights reserved.

Show your support for Missouri Journal

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Here’s your chance to proudly show your support for Missouri Journal, while providing needed funds.

B.R. Hook, which operates Missouri Journal, is now selling promotional t-shirts and coffee mugs online.

With @MOJournal on your right sleeve, the t-shirts display the Twitter hashtag for Missouri, St. Louis, Kansas City or Springfield in big letters on the front.

The coffee mugs have similar Missouri designs.

B.R. Hook, meanwhile, is selling press items.

The profits from the promotional items will go toward keeping the lights on at Missouri Journal.

Any additional funds will go to other media startups.

If you are not interested in any items, but you still want to help, click on the support section or go to the PayPal account directly, and give any amount. No matter how small — or big — every bit helps.

Interested in advertising or consulting services? Or do you have a news tip? Contact me anytime.

By Brian R. Hook[email protected], (314) 482-7944

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Copyright 2012 Missouri Journal. All rights reserved.

Unemployment rate drops in every metro area

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With jobless rates falling in every metropolitan area across Missouri, the labor market is showing signs of improvement.

The unemployment rate in April dropped in each of the state’s eight metro areas compared to the previous month, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In the St. Louis area, the unemployment rate dropped to 7.4 percent in April compared to 8.4 percent the month before.

The jobless rate fell to 6.6 percent during April throughout the Kansas City area, down from 7.6 percent during March.

In the Springfield metro area, the unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent during April compared to 7.1 percent in March.

Continuing with the largest to the smallest metro areas across Missouri, the unemployment rate fell t0 4.5 percent from to 5.2 percent in Columbia, dropped to 6.1 percent from 6.8 percent in Joplin, declined to 5.6 percent from 6.4 percent in Jefferson City, fell to 5.8 percent from 6.6 percent in St. Joseph, and fell to 6.3 percent from 7.2 percent in Cape Girardeau.

The unemployment rate across the state inched lower to 7.3 percent during April compared to 7.4 percent in March, according to data released earlier this month by the federal statistical agency.

As Missouri Journal reported, more people in the state started jobs in April than left the labor force for the first time this year.  To be counted as unemployed, a person must be actively seeking work.

In the metro areas, the labor force climbed in Kansas City, Joplin and Jefferson City, while staying even in Springfield and Cape Girardeau. The labor force fell in St. Louis, Columbia and St. Joseph.

By Brian R. Hook[email protected], (314) 482-7944

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Copyright 2012 Missouri Journal. All rights reserved.

Update: Feds call property leasing data ‘misleading’

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Is the federal government spending millions of dollars for property in Missouri it barely uses?

The data online that shows the occupancy rate for hundreds of thousands of square feet of property across the country is “misleading,” a spokesperson told the Washington Examiner Wednesday.

The statistics are actually meant to show how much space in each building the federal government leases, the spokesperson said, adding that the agency is now looking at how to change the database.

It it not clear, therefore, what the actual occupancy rates are for Missouri.  It is still safe to conclude, however, that the federal government spends millions of dollars for property across the state. The original story by Missouri Journal from earlier on Wednesday continues below:

Walnut Building in Kansas City

The federal government shells out millions of dollars for property across Missouri, leaving 90 percent of it unused.

The U.S. General Services Administration spends $600 million a year to lease at least 2,000 properties located throughout the country that are less than 10 percent full, according to a report by the Washington Examiner.

In Missouri, there are 26 properties on the list, totaling 316,000 square feet and costing taxpayers $4 million.

The most expensive location is is nearly 32,000 square feet in the St. Louis Place Building located in downtown St. Louis, costing taxpayers more than $900,000 a year for space.

In second place, the federal government pays nearly $730,000 a year for more than 38,000 square feet across the state in the Walnut Building in downtown Kansas City.

The third most expensive location in the state is in southwest Missouri.  The federal government spends around $470,000 a year to lease almost 75,000 square feet in Neosho, near Joplin.

By Brian R. Hook[email protected], (314) 482-7944

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Copyright 2012 Missouri Journal. All rights reserved.

New jobs increase faster than labor force drops

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More people started new jobs during April than left the labor force for the first time this year.

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 6,000, according to the latest unemployment report from the Missouri Department of Economic Development.

Meanwhile, the labor force dropped by 2,301.

For the year, Missouri has added 35,500 jobs.

The state revised the March payroll numbers higher by 4,800, according to a press release.

No one from the economic development department would respond to questions regarding whether any of the other numbers were revised.

The unemployment report for March posted online has not been revised

Therefore, using the unrevised data, 31,533 left the labor force since the start of the year.

Until April, more people left the labor force each month than new jobs were added.

To be counted as unemployed, a person must be actively searching for a job.

The unemployment rate in April dropped to 7.3 percent compared to 7.4 percent in March.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will release the state unemployment report on Friday.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon hit the road to tout the numbers, stopping in Forsyth and Kansas City.

“Whether it’s the tens of thousands of new jobs created so far this year or the continued explosion of state exports, the progress of Missouri’s economy is undeniable,” the governor said in a statement.

As reported by Missouri Journal last week, exports increased 15.4 percent to $3.9 billion during the first quarter compared to the same period last year. Nationally, exports increased by 8.7 percent.

By Brian R. Hook[email protected], (314) 482-7944

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Copyright 2012 Missouri Journal. All rights reserved.