Nicklaus: St. Louis is missing 60000 jobs, and they aren't coming back soon – St. Louis Post-Dispatch

John Goodman, CEO of Accenture Federal Services, makes the announcement in a press conference Tuesday, June 23, 2020, at Maryville University, that Accenture Federal Services will bring 1,400 technology jobs to St. Louis over the next five years. Photo by Hillary Levin, hlevin@post-dispatch.com
David Nicklaus is a business columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
{{description}}
Email notifications are only sent once a day, and only if there are new matching items.
St. Louis isn’t going to get its pre-pandemic economy back anytime soon.
For one thing, the workers aren’t there. The metro area gained 21,200 jobs in the first 11 months of this year, a strong total by historical standards, but it remains almost 60,000 below the employment total of February 2020, before COVID-19 disrupted everything.
Based on simple arithmetic, at 2021’s pace it will take nearly three more years of hiring to get back to the pre-pandemic level, and that doesn’t even account for the growth that a healthy economy should have had during that span.
The problem is that the pandemic appears to have changed Americans’ inclination to look for work. In metro St. Louis, the number of people who consider themselves part of the labor force has fallen by about 50,000 in the past two years.
Some are part of a wave of retirements. Older workers quit to avoid exposure to the coronavirus, and a rising stock market and soaring house prices allowed them to live comfortably without a job.
Others left jobs because they couldn’t find day care, or had to care for sick family members, and haven’t come back. “We’re just not seeing a lot of people returning to the labor force,” said Lowell Ricketts, a data scientist at the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank’s Institute for Economic Equity.
If you add that pandemic-related shift to the longtime challenge of a slow-growing, aging population, it’s clear that the St. Louis area will be hard pressed to regain its 60,000 missing jobs.
“The recovery was there in 2021, but it’s been slower than anyone would want,” Ricketts said. “Now the question is how much of what remains to be recovered is structural damage from the pandemic.”
In some ways, this year brought more positive economic news than St. Louis has had in a long time. Accenture opened a technology center in west St. Louis County that could grow to 1,400 workers, and American Foods Group announced plans for a 1,300-employee meatpacking plant in Warren County.
Stock-market transactions also created the area’s first two unicorns, locally based startups that grew to values of more than $1 billion. Nerdy, an online education company in Clayton, and Benson Hill, an agricultural technology firm in Creve Coeur, are both growing rapidly, and they’ve helped put St. Louis on the map for venture capital investors and other tech entrepreneurs.
Area governments, meanwhile, have resources they didn’t have a year ago. St. Louis and St. Louis County got $700 million from the American Rescue Plan and $500 million, shared with a regional stadium authority, from a lawsuit against the National Football League. The area also will benefit from hundreds of millions in federal infrastructure spending.
If that public money is invested wisely, in ways that will educate and attract a future generation of workers, we have a chance of breaking the pattern of stagnation. If it’s squandered, we may never get such an opportunity again.
Even if all goes well, however, we’re not going back to the kind of economy we had before the pandemic. Firms that used to find plenty of willing workers at low wages will find that they need to pay more and invest in labor-saving technology.
The trick will be preparing the region’s most precious resource, its young people, for the jobs of the future. St. Louis has already developed innovative training programs such as Gateway Global for geospatial careers and Access Point for computer programming. It’s time to double or triple our investment in them.
Get the latest local business news delivered FREE to your inbox weekly.
David Nicklaus is a business columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
{{description}}
Email notifications are only sent once a day, and only if there are new matching items.
John Goodman, CEO of Accenture Federal Services, makes the announcement in a press conference Tuesday, June 23, 2020, at Maryville University, that Accenture Federal Services will bring 1,400 technology jobs to St. Louis over the next five years. Photo by Hillary Levin, hlevin@post-dispatch.com
Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

source