Out of all the counties that comprise central Missouri, Boone County holds the lowest unemployment rate at 5.5 percent, according to the most recent economic report by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center.
Unemployment in Missouri jumped above 7 percent in July, according to the report.
The biggest employers in Boone County are education, health care and insurance. These industries have historically been relatively recession-proof, said Marty Steffens, professor of business and financial journalism.
“All three of those industries have a reputation of being very stable, unlike manufacturing in general,” said Steffens.
Yet, a number of hospitals have announced layoffs, and nationally more and more people are being discouraged, so they are not filing claims, according to the report.
“Because (Columbia) is a university town, people don’t stay in the area and keep looking,” Steffens said. “They will move elsewhere to find jobs, so that also has an effect on the unemployment rate.”
The growth of Columbia College and MU is a major driver of the hiring and health care. MU alone hires more than 8,000 workers, the vast majority of which live in Boone County, Steffens said.
Missouri got a lot of reinvestment act money for retraining, and a lot of that went to people who lost manufacturing jobs, Steffens said.
“We’ve seen people who have lost really well paying jobs in that industry, (and they) have been reabsorbed into the economy doing something else,” Steffens said.
She said a star of the Boone County region is United Home Loans, a mortgage company that caters to home loans for veterans.
“They have really significantly added hiring in the last two years, which has helped Boone County unemployment,” Steffens said.
Statewide, Missouri unemployment stood at 7.1 percent, a 0.2 percent increase from June, the report said.
Missouri’s unemployment rate is still below the national unemployment rate of 7.4 percent, making July the 48th consecutive month that Missouri’s unemployment rate was less than the national average.
“Manufacturing has been a highly volatile industry, so that’s why we are generally below average. We aren’t overly dependent on manufacturing like the Northeast is,” Steffens said.
Missouri has a number of growth industries, such as biosciences, and these have helped pick up the slack Missouri has lost from manufacturing. While Missouri has a significant amount of manufacturing, it is not like Detroit, an area that is over-reliant on manufacturing, the report states.