May jobs report shows Missouri unemployment rate at 4.2%

Jobs Report
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Missouri non-farm payroll employment increased from April 2021 to May 2021, but the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased by a tenth of a percentage point. Employment, seasonally adjusted, increased by 6,000 jobs over the month, with job gains in both goods-producing and service-providing industries. The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.2 percent in May 2021, up from 4.1 percent in April 2021.

With the initial wave of COVID-19-related layoffs now more than a year in the past, the six-figure over-the-year job losses that had characterized the Missouri labor market for the last nine months of 2020 and the first three months of 2021 were replaced with an increase of nearly 200,000 jobs from May 2020 to May 2021. Long-term improvement can be expected but short-term shortages of semiconductor chips may hold down employment in manufacturing in the next few months.


Missouri’s smoothed seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased by a tenth of a percentage point in May 2021, rising to 4.2 percent from the April 2021 rate of 4.1 percent. The May 2021 rate was 5.4 percentage points lower than the May 2020 rate. The rate had reached a low of 3.1 percent starting in July 2018, before gradually edging up to 3.5 percent by the end of 2019, and then to 3.7 percent in March 2020. The COVID-19 effect hit in April 2020, spiking the rate to 12.5 percent for that month. The rate decreased monthly for the rest of 2020, reaching 4.4 percent in December, and continued gradually downward through the first four months of 2021. The increase of a tenth of a percentage point in May 2021 appears to be related to a temporary shortage in the supply of semiconductor chips, which caused production slowdowns in some manufacturing industries.

Due to benchmark revisions, Missouri’s unemployment rate rose a tenth of a percentage point higher than the national rate in January and February of 2020 but has been below the national rate for every month since February 2020. The national unemployment rate decreased from 6.1 percent in April 2021 to 5.8 percent in May 2021. The estimated number of unemployed Missourians was 128,770 in May 2021, up by 1,824 from April’s 126,946. Missouri’s total civilian labor force increased by 4,440 in May compared to April and there are over 150,000 fewer Missourians unemployed than in May 2020.

The state’s not-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate had an unusual increase in May 2021, rising by six-tenths of a percentage point to 4.7 percent from the April 2021 not-seasonally-adjusted rate of 4.1 percent. The shortage of semiconductor chips, along with chilly, rainy weather that put a damper on outdoor activities, were factors in the increase. The corresponding not-seasonally-adjusted national rate for May 2021 was 5.5 percent.  

A year ago, the state’s seasonally adjusted rate was 9.6 percent, and the not-adjusted rate was 9.7 percent.


Missouri’s seasonally adjusted nonfarm payroll employment was 2,818,000 in May 2021, up by 6,000 from the revised April 2021 figure. Goods-producing industries gained 1,500 jobs over the month, all in manufacturing, with gains in non-durable goods and electronics manufacturing. These gains were enough to offset an employment loss in motor vehicle manufacturing, which was hampered by a shortage of semiconductor chips for onboard computers.  Meanwhile, service-providing industries gained 4,500 jobs between April and May 2021, with increases in professional & business services (+2,900 jobs) leisure & hospitality (+2,800 jobs), and educational & health services (+2,500 jobs) at least partially attributable to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. However, not every major industry group shared in the increase, with trade, transportation & utilities losing 3,800 jobs over the month. Government employment showed little change over the month.

Total payroll employment increased by 194,900 jobs from May 2020 to May 2021, reflecting the recovery from the job cuts brought on by the initial wave of COVID-19 infections. All but one of the major private-sector industry groups shared in the increases, with the largest gain in leisure & hospitality (+74,500 jobs), followed by trade, transportation & utilities (+32,100 jobs), educational & health services (+27,300 jobs), and professional & business services (+19,700 jobs). The sole private-sector exception was financial activities, which lost 1,700 jobs. Government employment also increased over the year, with a gain of 16,000 jobs concentrated in state and local government.

See the full Jobs Report here.

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