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