2018 State of the St. Louis Workforce Report

By on August 8, 2018
2018 State of the St. Louis Workforce Report

Chancellor Jeff Pittman frequently says that St. Louis Community College does three basic things to accomplish our mission of expanding minds and changing lives: we train the region’s workforce; we educate students who want to transfer to four-year institutions; and we provide lifelong learning options to the community through our continuing education programs. It is no accident educating the workforce is first among these basic services. St. Louis can only grow and prosper if it has an educated population trained in the skills employers need right now to compete in our global economy.

In order to educate the right workforce at the right time, we must understand employers’ immediate and long-term needs in the context of regional (and global) economic trends. That’s why for the past ten years St. Louis Community College and our partners have tracked the changes to our region’s workforce through the research and production of the State of the St. Louis Workforce Report.

Since the first report was issued in 2009, the landscape of the St. Louis economy and workforce has undergone dramatic changes. Current employment levels and workforce characteristics would have been almost unimaginable a decade ago. In July 2009, there were 6.6 unemployed workers for every job opening. In April 2018, for the first time since the Department of Labor began tracking job openings, there were more job openings reported than unemployed persons.

The national unemployment rate, which peaked at 10 percent in 2009, was down to 3.9 percent in April 2018. The unemployment rate for the St. Louis MSA continues to drop in line with the national trend. As of April 2018, the St. Louis unemployment rate stood at 3.2 percent, down from the 3.6 percent rate of April 2017 and lower than both the national and Missouri rates. Nearly one in four St. Louis MSA workers is 55 and older. This represents an increase from approximately one in six a decade ago.

What was a gradual tightening in the labor market has now become a constricting factor in employers’ ability to expand. This has been reflected for the past several years in our employer survey. In 2011, nearly two-thirds of employers cited economic conditions as a barrier to expanding employment as compared to only 38 percent citing a shortage of workers with knowledge or skills. By 2017 more than half of employers cited the shortage of workers as a barrier while only about one quarter cited economic conditions.

Amidst these huge changes, a few sectors have been of critical importance to our economic recovery, and we expect they will continue to play an outsized influence in our future economy. That’s why the College focused our 2018 survey on these three sectors: Information Technology, employing more than 145,000 workers with average wages exceeding $90,000; Financial Services, which added jobs thousands of jobs in our region while nationally the sector was contracting; and Health Care, with more than 165,000 employees, including a heavy concentration of middle-skill jobs.

We could not have produced this report without the invaluable help from our partners at the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, who compile labor market information from public and private sources. This is the second year that the Report is co-sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, and we are also proud to welcome the Nine Network of Public Media as a new partner. Their interest in our region’s workforce will be crucial to responding to the challenges we face.

We hope that the 2018 State of St. Louis Workforce Report provides information that will prove valuable to the St. Louis region as it continues to evolve and grow as a dynamic economy and job market while offering opportunities to improve the lives of all of our citizens.

Download the full report, or 4-page infographic summary, at STLCC.edu/STLworkforce.

About Hart Nelson

Hart Nelson was appointed associate vice chancellor, Workforce Solutions Group in May 2018. Nelson has 23 years of career experience in public policy, government relations, intelligence and information technology. He serves as the lead for economic and workforce development, is responsible for managing corporate and community workforce development, continuing professional development and personal enrichment education, as well as managing entrepreneurial initiatives that reflect the needs of local, regional and national employers. Most recently, Nelson was vice president of public policy for the St. Louis Regional Chamber. He has been a foreign service officer with the U.S. Department of State, an intelligence officer with the United States Navy Reserve and an information technology architect with IBM. As a volunteer, he is board treasurer of Citizens for Modern Transit and vice chair of the Missouri Military Preparedness and Enhancement Commission. He has a master's degrees in business administration and information management from Washington University in St. Louis and a Bachelor of Arts in political science and mass communication from University of California-Berkeley.

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