While employment numbers nationally may be improving, Missouri lags behind other states when it comes to putting people back to work.
The Show-Me State needs a gain of 161,000 jobs to get back to the pre-recession employment level in the state, according to research by economist Ernie Goss at Creighton University.
Out of nine states he tracks in the region, Missouri needs to add the highest number of new jobs, increasing employment by 6.1 percent.
"Among the nine Mid-America states, Missouri has lost more jobs to the recession and subsequent economic weakness than any other state," said Goss, who releases data monthly.
"While Missouri's manufacturing sector is recording solid improvements, other industries, such as telecommunications, continue to experience pullbacks in business activity."
Fewer layoffs, lower unemployment
Missouri was one of 25 states across the country with a decrease of more than 1,000 claims.
While the weekly initial unemployment claims provide more of an immediate economic gauge of the job market across the state, the monthly unemployment and payroll numbers provide more details.
Despite a fall in payrolls, unemployment across Missouri dropped to 8 percent in December.
In the St. Louis metropolitan area, unemployment fell to 8.3 percent in December compared to 9.4 perecent during the same month in 2010, according to a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, unemployment increased month-over-month from 8.1 percent in November.
Payrolls in St. Louis increased 1.4 percent from 1.43 million to 1.45 million year-over-year.