Alarm sounds; Missouri leads nation –– in jobs lost

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, and 40 local chambers from around Missouri held a press conference in Jefferson City last week to declare a state of emergency over Missouri’s staggering job loss.

Losing more than 77,700 jobs last year, Missouri led the nation in job loss according to a report recently released by the U.S. Department of Labor. Missouri lost 20,000 more jobs than the next worst state, Ohio. Ohio’s population, 11.3 million, is twice that of Missouri’s population, which is 5.5 million.

Even more disturbing, Missouri’s job loss shows trends of acceleration. More than 30,000 jobs were lost between Dec. 2002 and Jan. 2003, the most recent months for which data are available.

“This is a crisis and we are here today to urge lawmakers and the administration to use the precious weeks left in the session to address this all-too-real emergency,” said Daniel P. Mehan, president and CEO. “So much time has been spent this session over what to do about sagging state revenues. Meanwhile, we continue to allow our most dependable revenue source – Missouri jobs — to walk out of our state.”

Missouri’s lost jobs represent $2.26 billion in lost wages and $126 million in lost tax revenues to the state, according to information compiled by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry from data provided by the Missouri Department of Economic Development. These lost revenues include lost state income taxes as well as lost sales taxes and indirect revenues these wages would have generated.

“Everytime a Missourian loses his or her job, the state loses $1,600 in tax revenue,” said Mehan. “These are cold hard facts policymakers need to embrace as they prioritize the issues that will be addressed yet this session. If they are truly concerned about finding a solution to Missouri’s budget problems, stopping Missouri’s epidemic job loss is the place to start.”

“Missouri’s first order of business to stem the loss of its job is passage of meaningful workers’ compensation reform and tort reform in addition to holding the line on tax increases,” said Brett Hamm, regional executive director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Passing these laws will send a clear message that Missouri is open for business.”

Missouri was among 29 states, including six of seven surrounding states, with decreasing employment levels last year. However, our neighboring states’ job loss pales in comparison to Missouri. Oklahoma lost 19,700 jobs and Illinois lost 14,000. Iowa lost 7,500 jobs; Nebraska lost 6,200; Kentucky lost 4,400; and Kansas lost 2,400.

Tennessee posted a job gain of 1,600 jobs and Arkansas added 4,600 jobs to its workforce. “We can talk all day bout how we need to address our state problems, but it all boils down to one thing,” said John Mehner, Chairman of the Missouri Chamber Federation and President of the Cape Girardeau, whose member businesses compete every day with business across the Tennessee and Arkansas borders. “Everything we want to do starts with prosperity, and that starts with jobs.”

“Government leaders must take a hard look at these statistics and answer this question,” said Mehan. “Why did Missouri lose four times as many jobs as any of our bordering states? There is a problem, and we, Missouri’s chambers of commerce, representing the employers of this state, demand that this question be answered.”