2019 State of the St. Louis Workforce Report

By on August 7, 2019
2019 State of the St. Louis Workforce Report

Our Chancellor Dr. Jeff Pittman frequently talks about the need for the college to change to meet current student and employer needs. He points out that we must recognize that the pathways to employment today are not the same as those from ten years ago, much less those available when STLCC was built in 1962. The workforce landscape has changed, and we at STLCC are committed to changing with it to ensure that none of our neighbors are left behind.

The State of the St. Louis Workforce Report is now entering its second decade of providing information and insight into the economic conditions and workforce issues facing our region. For the last 11 years, we have tracked the region’s transition from the high unemployment of the Great Recession through a decade of growth to a labor market now constrained by a lack of available workers.

In December 2007, when the recession began, the national unemployment rate was 5%. By October 2009 it had peaked at 10%. As of April 2019, both the national and St. Louis unemployment rate stood at 3.6%. While two years ago we were surrounded by evidence of economic growth and a full employment economy, our report this year provides indications that employers are at least somewhat concerned about the future and are taking steps to reduce risk.

Over the last year, the economic conditions have reflected this decade of recovery and growth. The gap between the unemployment rate and the number of job openings remains at its lowest level ever. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 7.4 million job openings but only enough hiring to fill 5.9 million of those openings. In July 2009, there were 6.4 unemployed workers for each job opening. Just under ten years later, we had less than one unemployed person per opening, the lowest level since the Bureau began tracking this statistic in 2000.

But the reality is that unemployment rates vary greatly depending on age, race and other factors. Younger workers, particularly those under age 22, had unemployment rates at or above 8.5% in the St. Louis metro during 2017. Men in the 16-19 age range had the highest rate at 16.7%. And, as our report highlights, other groups within St. Louis are facing similar challenges. The 2019 report takes a closer look at three populations in the St. Louis region that are continuously underrepresented in the workforce: African American men aged 18-24, people with disabilities, and justice-involved individuals.

With the decade-long decrease in the unemployment rate and significant evidence that employers are finding it more and more difficult to find employees to fill open jobs, we were interested in examining what potential pools of workers remain. We partnered with three local organizations that serve these groups to obtain direct perspectives about the people being left behind, why, and what is currently being done about it.

As always, 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. We are once again proud to be joined by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, and the Nine Network of Public Media, and welcome the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry as a new partner this year. These organizations have repeatedly demonstrated interest in understanding and growing our region’s workforce, and we look forward to working with them to make a better St. Louis for all.
We hope that the 2019 State of the St. Louis Workforce Report provides information that will prove valuable to the employers, civic leaders, and especially our students and future workers as St. Louis continues to evolve and grow as a dynamic economy and job market.

Download the full report 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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