Columbia’s most recent unemployment statistics — 3.7 percent for December 2013 — rank among the lowest in the nation.
The 3.7 percent rate, the same as November 2013, is 17th-lowest in the nation. Bismarck, N.D., leads the country with a 2.8 percent rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Columbia has also recently received some national recognition for its business environment, including a Milken Institute ranking of best performing small city and Parade Magazine’s top spot in its list of America’s hardest-working towns.
The national unemployment for the month of December 2013 sits at 6.6 percent, which is down from its peak of 10 percent in October of 2009. The last time Columbia’s unemployment rate was higher than the current national average was three years ago. Missouri’s unemployment rate was 5.9 percent, putting the state 17th out of 50 states and Washington, D.C.
Matt McCormick, president of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, said Columbia’s low unemployment rate is due largely to the strong education systems within the city, as well as the well-educated workforce that lives here.
“There are a lot of factors that go into why our unemployment rate is where it’s at,” McCormick said. “Those factors include job growth, being a positive place to do business and also the workforce development going on here, as well as the higher education.”
Part of the challenge for local organizations, such as the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, McCormick said, is making sure there are a good number of jobs to match the strong workforce here and to continue making sure the workforce stays strong.
“It’s that balance of making sure that we have the jobs, and if we have the jobs it’s making sure we have the quality workforce to fill those jobs, and vice versa,” McCormick said. “We’ve noticed that as companies move in and are looking to hire, one thing they’re looking at is our quality of education and the quality of our workforce.”
McCormick also addressed the future of Columbia, and its growth in population and jobs between the censuses of 2000 and 2010.
Columbia grew 4 percent between April 2010 and July 2012 alone, according to U.S. Census data. The most recent census data puts the city’s population at 113,225.
“Columbia — as it continues to grow, and it will continue to grow — will require us to not sit back and be satisfied with where we’re at but to keep moving forward and to continue these programs that have been put in place,” McCormick said. “We need sure to make sure we’re building on our successes so that as Columbia continues to grow and develop. We can make sure we have the jobs there for our workforce and that our workforce is there and ready to fill in the jobs.”