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Where Did All the Workers Go?

The labor force across Missouri dropped by nearly 40,000 workers during the first quarter of this year, yet nearly 30,000 jobs were created.

The labor force across Missouri dropped by nearly 40,000 workers during the first quarter of this year, yet almost 30,000 jobs were created.

The state released the latest unemployment report earlier this week, showing non-farm payrolls increased by 4,800 during March. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate held steady at 7.4 percent.

Unlike for the January and February data, the Missouri Department of Economic Development released the March numbers on the same day, revealing that the labor force dropped by 8,587.

To be considered unemployed in the government data, a person must be actively seeking a job.

Politicians will promote the total of 28,900 jobs created during the first quarter. But during the same period, 38,657 workers left the labor market in Missouri. Where did they all go?

A drop in the labor force combined with a fall in the unemployment rate and increasing payrolls is not out of the ordinary, according James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

The total number of people in the U.S. labor force has been on a downward trend since 2000, Bullard told a handful of reporters gathered at the bank last week. 

"I would not expect labor participation to move very far off of that downward trend," Bullard said, following a question by Missouri Journal.

On the other side of the state, the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City released research this week examining the decline in labor force participation nationally, noting the decline is likely to dampen the potential labor supply of the economy, since many workers have permanently left the labor force.

Nationally, labor force participation fell from 66 percent in 2007 to 64.1 percent in 2011, according to the report. The U.S. labor force dropped faster than in any preceding four-year period on record.

"As these workers return to the labor force, their re-entry willl put upward pressure on both the unemployment rate and the labor force participation rate," writes Willem Van Zandweghe, senior economist at the Kansas City Fed, noting some workers will return as the economy recovers.

Mohamed El-Erian, CEO of the global investment management firm PIMCO, said last week that the low workorce numbers are worrisome during a presentation held at the St. Louis Fed downtown.

"It suggests we are still in the middle of an economic crisis in this country," El-Erian said.

By Brian R. Hookbrhook@missourijournal.com, (314) 482-7944

Hook is editor of Missouri Journal, which tracks the economy across the Show-Me State

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SJR April 22, 2012 at 02:02 AM
With such an emphasis on high school seniors attending a 4 year university its no wonder the labor force is dwindling. When politicians make it a talking point that every graduating senior deserved to and should go to college it makes the enrollment in the trades look and feel like a sub standard choice. The federal government, through handouts is making it far too easy for anyone who want to to go to college. I have no problem with a college education but the demeaning of the skilled trades is often the result of pressuring everyone to enroll in a 4 year program.
mormit April 24, 2012 at 02:27 AM
You also have to factor in that the Boomers have been hitting retirement age. Also, those postponing retirement in recent years have seen their savings recover. Not really surprising.
Brian R. Hook April 25, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Corrections: The drop in labor force during the first quarter totals 29,232. The increase in payrolls totals 28,200. Sorry for the errors - BRH
Jason Charney May 05, 2012 at 07:27 PM
HEY! WE'RE HERE! YOU'RE JUST NOT HIRING US! Yesterday, I was on the phone with a recruiter who said a job lead would call me around 2PM that after noon. Instead, I got stood up, never mind that I waited for a call until 5PM when the phone was still silent. EMPLOYERS AREN'T DOING THEIR JOB is the problem! It's hard to get a job as a computer programmer when every lead request 5+ years of professional experience, there are no entry-level positions, and no one wants to train new workers to use whatever system they have so that job seekers like me can use their companies computer system without feeling overwhelmed because their computer skills are slightly different. So when my computer programming job plans being on hold because the HR at the IT firm doesn't call when he promises, I start looking for work elsewhere in non computer related positions. Again, I'm sitting on my hands waiting for someone to call me up for an interview. I apply to job websites (Dice, Indeed, Simply Hired, but not Career Builder anymore. That site didn't send job offers. It sent education offer spam. (NO I DON'T WANT TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL TO BE A DENTAL HYGENSIST ASSITANT! I don't have the money to go back to school!) When I submitted my resume I got leads from some local RECRUITING FIRMS. Because, you know, employers are too cheap to hire directly or train or take responsibility for their workers.)
Jason Charney May 05, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Most of the recruiting leads keep coming from out of state. The guy on the phone from the various RFs couldn't speak English to save his life. It was almost always some guy named "Ahmed" who had a thick Middle-Eastern or South-Asian accent. (I bet if you had to call these guys and had to press "1" for English, you'd still get this guy telling you where to find work.) So even thought I set the job search engines to find me work within a 25 mile radius of where I live in the St. Louis Area, Ahmed calls and says "I have a lead for you in New Jersey" or "I have a lead for you in Toledo, Ohio" or "I have a lead in Blue Ash, Missouri". (The problem is there is NO Blue Ash, Missouri.) So while companies that hire Ahmed take the unemployed for a ride, I'm not getting any younger nor any richer. As I have no one in my neck of the woods to offer advice as to how to go freelance. (Which as it turns out freelancers have to pay their taxes quarterly, which is a load of crap consider Ahmed's employers likely don't submit their taxes annually.) So while I'm getting nagged by my folks to take jobs wouldn't take in the first place but applied for anyway because that's what's open but they never follow through and more than likely use employment websites to just collect personal information from the desperately unemployed and reject them anyway, I'm asking myself what I did wrong to not get hired even with a clean record and no criminal history.
Jason Charney May 05, 2012 at 07:55 PM
The workers are here. The employers aren't listening! As for our state legislators who blame the federal government or Mexicans or even their own mother, maybe they should stop playing golf with the guys who wanted the China Hub paid for with the money that North County residents needed after their homes got hit by the tornado last year. Instead, of admitting that outsourcing the domestic workforce (b/c Globalization is one big scam for businesses not to pay taxes or employ domestic workers struggling to find work), they'll blame illegal immigrants for the jobs drought. Last time I checked, the guy who answered the phone did not have a Mexican accent. So pull another excuse! The workers are here. We've just been DUMPED so that some big company doesn't have to pay taxes or be accountable for their actions. And given that this state has at-will employment, you can probably bet that statements like the ones I have just written that are the honest to God's truth about why employers don't hire, aren't going to get me hired by anyone when the look me up online.
Jason Charney May 05, 2012 at 07:55 PM
But you know what, if they don't want to hire me because I'm too opinionated or too liberal and then they want to run for congress/president (despite have no background in law or constitutional law) and lie to everyone about how they create jobs when they've SOLD OUT their own workforce or the workers of another company to make themselves obscenely rich, perhaps they'll remember who voted against them in the election.
Philip May 07, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Where did the workers go? First of all over half of them went into permanent retirement. The reason was quite simple. No one would hire them and the jobs weren't there. This cuts down on the jobless rate and labor force by half. Second of all when the President and Congress keep pushing college on High School kids and tell them "Hey look at me I got a job and made huge bucks" they think college is the way to go. Never mind that it takes years to get there but hey they think the money is out there right after college. Third of all most of the remaining labor force is getting ready to retire as they have hit retirement age. You can create all the figures you want but the facts are that people get old and want to become couch potatoes after years of doing the job. Finally kids today only want money. They think they have the "Right" to make massive amounts of money each paycheck and they want it now. Each generation makes their own mistakes. Pioneers made learning easier for their kids by creating schools. Post War made things easier by creating suburbs and mass auto purchasing. Computer age made things easier by creating the home computer and the Internet and dumbing down the education system. The next generation will most likely continue this trend of making things easier. Ghost
Jason Charney May 07, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Has it occurred to you that many of the well paying jobs require a college education? You want to be a CPA? Go to college, study accounting. You want to become a doctor (not a nurse or a nursing assitant)? Go to college, study medicine. Laywer? College, study law. Design new skyscrapers or cars? Study engineering at college. This crap where people assume we're "elitist" or "feel entitled", is Right-Wing B.S. These are the same clowns who claim going to college is "liberal brainwashing" or a "debt trap". I spent SIX years in college. I didn't goof off an extra two years. And I worked very hard to get my degree. The Federal government DID NOT give me a hand out, but I did take out a few STATE (Missouri) ISSUED LOANS like many college students. And a loan is NOT a "hand out". You have to pay it back. Which brings me to the next issue. Folks who think college undergrads were looking for a pot of gold at the end of the college rainbow. Keep in mind, we still have debt. And one of the best ways to pay off crushing debt is a WELL-PAYING JOB. The whole point of college was so that when you were DONE with college, you didn't have to go back to working at McDonald's while you were working to make money while in high school and college. We're NOT "entitled" but we have paid our dues. Now we just want to pay off our debt for an education that was worth diving the the red.
Jason Charney May 07, 2012 at 03:00 PM
"First of all over half of them went into permanent retirement. The reason was quite simple. No one would hire them and the jobs weren't there. This cuts down on the jobless rate and labor force by half." And the other half? The issue isn't about those who went into retirement or who were forced into retirement. The issue has more to do with the DISCOURAGED Workers, the one's who've given up on looking for work because not even McDonald's wants them. "Second of all when the President and Congress keep pushing college on High School kids and tell them "Hey look at me I got a job and made huge bucks" they think college is the way to go. Never mind that it takes years to get there but hey they think the money is out there right after college." Well, yeah. If you want to become president these days, either of a country or a Fortune 500 company, you have to go to college. As for the assertion that college undergrads think they are "entitled" to immediate results, is a load of neo-conservative nonsense. We didn't expect to be the boss when we got out. Only a fool would believe that. And colleges don't let fools walk across the stage.
Jason Charney May 07, 2012 at 03:23 PM
" Third of all most of the remaining labor force is getting ready to retire as they have hit retirement age....people get old and want to become couch potatoes after years of doing the job." So old people are "entitled" to "become couch potatoes" but college undergrads are becoming couch potatoes after sending out resumes and going to job fairs and posting their resumes on job sites and waiting for the few times the barely-English-speaking guy (some Indian guy named "Ahmed") who can't elocute clearly the questions in English on the phone conducts phone interview for a recruiting firm that doesn't have to courage to conduct in-person-interviews that would encourage the greenhorn job seeker to leave the house and get some exercise.
Jason Charney May 07, 2012 at 03:29 PM
"Finally kids today only want money. They think they have the "Right" to make massive amounts of money each paycheck and they want it now." So very wrong and selfish. While it would be great to get paid for our work, and paid hansomely, most of us aren't dummies and accept that the real world is too cheap pay more than $10/hour for a job that our non-college-educated parents got paid twice as much for. We know we won't get everything we want immediate, but when you don't have a source of income that is good enough to pay back your loans and the creditors are breathing down your neck, that feeling for a nice job isn't "entitlement" but DESPERATION, even more so when the job you want won't take you because you "don't have the experience" and the job you are willing to take that is below your skills and abilites that you've earned won't take you because you "are over-educated to work for this job" or "you haven't worked in a while". THESE ARE THINGS WE ARE TRYING TO RESOLVE WITH A CRAPPY JOB! We weren't expecting to "become part of the upper-management immediately", we just want something--ANYTHING--to keep us from moving back in with our parents, selling our cars so that we can go to work, or DEFAULTING on our debts. But you know, we're "too entitled" to work to get our heads above water.
Jason Charney May 07, 2012 at 03:46 PM
"Each generation makes their own mistakes. Pioneers made learning easier for their kids by creating schools. Post War made things easier by creating suburbs and mass auto purchasing. Computer age made things easier by creating the home computer and the Internet and dumbing down the education system. The next generation will most likely continue this trend of making things easier." So we're a "convenience society"? These so-called "mistakes", you wouldn't have used any of them recently have you? The computer age hasn't made college students stupid and lazy. It's made EMPLOYERS stupid and lazy. They outsource their hiring process such that the guy one the phone who you speak to doesn't speak English very well. (News flash, Repugs: The guy on the phone ISN'T Mexican. So stop singling them out!) Instead of in-person interviews, they use phone interviews. Instead of filtering their resumes to folks living within the radius of the workplace (i.e. 25 miles) looking for work, they leave their search query unfiltered and pick up the 1000s of irrelevant resumes and overwhelm themselves. Likewise, when job seekers who set their job search filters to near their home (i.e. 25 miles), they get phone calls from people out of the area that offer them jobs in places they can't afford to move to yet. So explain how the job seekers are "entitled bums" when the employers haven't figured out why they can't find folks to fill their vaguely defined positions yet?
Philip May 07, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Jason, Yes I have used them. As far as dumbing down education go take a look at an 1890's education requirement. I looked it up on a DOD education requirement site. An 1890's grammar school education went all the way up to basic calculus. Just in math. Reading was required at the grade level not 2 or more below. Writing, using either a pencil or a pen, on paper was required of all grades and spelling was to be correct. Drafting was required of all students. Yes we have dumbed down education and made it easier for {insert name here} to get educated. Yes this generation has contributed nothing to the work force. What have you created for the next generation. Mine created home computers, the Internet, Nintendo, X-box, etc. Skilled workers make almost as much as college graduates. That is just at the start. The more skills used the higher the pay. I know because I worked in a Factory making Aircraft parts. I Retired due to Injuries not because of Age. Yes there are places out there hiring but they really don't need a college diploma to get hired. Yes college is easier to get to for almost any student. I have attended college as well. Yes there are diploma mills out there which will grant a diploma in any field. Yes colleges are teaching remedial skills to students instead of learning in High Schools. Yes there are college graduates, 70% who want the money now. Not just to pay back loans with either.
Philip May 07, 2012 at 04:39 PM
Jason, As far as the computer age making people lazy. Yes it has!!! As far as people wanting to become couch potatoes. Seniors retire all the time and complain that they don't have enough time to do all they want to do. Kids in grammar school sit on the couch and watch videos and MTV and whatever is on cable at the moment. They claim zero homework until bed time and it has to be done now. They surf the web from their "necessary" cell phones instead of doing what work needs to be done now. On trips the kids watch all kinds of videos in the back seat while mom or dad does all the driving. You want to point fingers? Look to yourself first then start assigning blame. The "It's not my fault because..." generation has matured. What have they done? Employers want workers, some educated, some factory, not give me the money and go away people. I want x amount of days off each week because of .... Take a long look at what you are complaining about. College IS expensive, I have paid off several student loans working at places like Mc Donalds so don't cry to me about costs. Learn what is a need not just a want.
RDBet May 07, 2012 at 07:01 PM
Jason, Or in other words - the boomer generation has got theirs' and to heck with everyone else. But we will give you younger ones a good lecture/browbeating/scapegoatng for all the societal ills. Bootstraps and what not. Seriously, keep hanging in there Jason. Something will eventually open up. Good luck.
Jason Charney May 08, 2012 at 08:26 PM
If you are that critical of technology and progress, go join an Anabaptist group. Perhaps a few months in Amish country will change your mind.
Jason Charney May 08, 2012 at 08:40 PM
"Or in other words - the boomer generation has got theirs' and to heck with everyone else. But we will give you younger ones a good lecture/browbeating/scapegoatng for all the societal ills. Bootstraps and what not." For the most part, yes. However, there are quite a bit of Boomer who are on the receiving end of the Recession in that their savings, retirement, and credit were wiped out. They're not willing to look into how they got there unless some right-wing talk show host write a book which recants their manufactured statements they repeat constantly on their radio show or TV show. On the other hand, trying to look at it from the left view seems more interested in establishing social democracy that trying to boost the courage of the Democratic party to tell the corporate lobbyist who encourage unemployment through outsourcing and weakening the domestic workforce in favor of globalized profit. (Perhaps that is a bit off tangent.) Regardless the Chomskys and Zinns of the world need to step up to the plate and encourage making some changes instead of talking about how they'd do it. Lead by example really. We need people to actually be progressive in encouraging starting new businesses, not just in the chic downtown/eclectic areas of the city but elsewhere in this region.
Jason Charney May 08, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Florissant for example has too many beauty supply shops and barely any corporate workplaces. It's an imbalanced diet of too much cake and not enough bread. You look at places like Brentwood, Maryland Heights, Des Peres, and Clayton. Sure they got Wal-Marts and Targets and big box stores. But the number of places you can get your nails done is countable on two hands. What really stands out here is the amount of OCCUPIED OFFICE SPACE that is in these area. What do we have North of I-270. Practically nothing like that. Any why aren't we building office space? Why aren't we filling commerical property with businesses? Why is it so much more important for a new Wal-Mart to be built in our area rather than office buildings to attract IT firms, attorney practices, CPA companies, startups, and corporate headquarters? Our town needs to stop getting its nails done and put people back to work locally rather than 10 or 20 miles down the road. These are things worth constructing. Best Buy will likely be out of business next year, so why waste our energy on building big box stores and not on corporate office space? I sure as heck would like not to commute more than 30 minutes from my home than stay home. It's not like I'm asking for a window office in Malibu. Not every new business needs a cash register. I wish Mayor Tom Schnider would figure that out.
William Braudis July 13, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Take it from an old retiree, when you finish college you are of no value during this time of un-employment. Ask yourself, why would an establish organization take on the expense of training a newbee when there are qualified people looking for work and possibly at a reduced salary ? When things get back to normal under the Republican Party entry level jobs will open for the new graduates.

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