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Schools, hospitals hiring as manufacturers cut staff

December 13, 2002
By: Jason McLure
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - If you're looking for work in Missouri, the two industries adding the most jobs are education and health care, according to a report from the Department of Economic Development.

Local governments have added 11,000 employees over the past two years, most of them in the schools, while the health care industry has added over 9,000 jobs.

While the manufacturing and business services industries have been laying people off, Mary Becker of the Missouri Hospital Association said her industry continues to face worker shortages.

"[The market] is good for hospital employment right now," Becker said. "We need more people. We have an aging population that is requiring more and more hospital care."

She said hospitals are especially looking for more nurses, pharmacists, radiology technicians, respiratory therapists, and operating room technicians.

Local governments have been hiring as well. Bill Niblack, a researcher at the Department of Economic Development, estimates that public schools statewide have added about 6,600 jobs over the past two years. Niblack said the job growth was not uncharacteristic for local governments.

Gary Markenson of the Missouri Municipal League attributes much of the growth to the state's fast growing suburbs.

"You get in places like St. Charles and Lee's Summit and they're building schools like crazy, and that takes teachers," Markenson said.

Despite the growth in the number of jobs with local governments, the DED report showed state government has been shedding jobs. Over the past year, the state has trimmed its workforce by 3,600 employees.

Retailers, restaurants, and bars have added employees. The DED reports that restaurants and bars have added 2,300 jobs since 2000, and general retailers have hired 1,400 additional employees.

Hiring by local governments, the health care industry, restaurants, and retailers were the few bright spots in an otherwise gloomy assessment of Missouri's economy. This week's report showed Missouri mired in a 19 month recession, with its economy growing slower than any of its eight border states. Since March of 2001, the state has lost 77,000 jobs.

The DED said two pillars of strength for Missouri's economy, new home construction and the automobile industry, were showing signs of weakness. While low-interest rates have fueled new home and automobile purchases, recent data has shown demand weakening.

This, accordingly makes the holiday shopping season all the more important, as consumer spending now represents two-thirds of the U.S. economy.