Missouri Department of Labor

Franklin County unemployment rates have dropped below 10 percent for the first time in two months, but are still more than double pre-coronavirus rates.

For June, the county unemployment rate was 8.4 percent with new jobless claims of 1,226, according to the Missouri Department of Labor (MDOL).

The county unemployment rate in May was 10.9 percent and 10.7 percent in April.

The first COVID-19 case in Franklin County was reported March 23 and around the same time the Franklin County Commission began closing nonessential businesses to prevent virus spread.

In March, the unemployment rate rose to 4.7 percent from 3.9 percent in February. The rate in January was 4.2 percent.

East Central College Dean of Career and Technical Education, Dr. Richard Hudanick said county unemployment by industry is consistent with job loss data statewide.

“The ‘leisure and hospitality’ industry, or what we often refer to as the ‘service’ sector has been hit the hardest,” Hudanick said. “Statewide unemployment in this category marked the highest job loss, representing a 25 percent decline in employment. This represents employment at dental and medical offices, restaurants and small-business operators that were not considered essential operations during the COVID shutdown.”

Hudanick said county businesses overall did take a financial hit and many will recover, but not all.

“I am seeing shuttered storefronts already,” he said. “Yes, jobs will return as the local economy opens up. How many jobs return is difficult to say. I anticipate sectors like manufacturing will return to normal business activity long before the service sector finds solid ground.”

Another key issue facing service sector business is consumer confidence and habits of spending.

“The longer there is uncertainty, the greater the probability that some businesses will not return,” Hudanick said. “Unfortunately, this perpetuating cycle will affect disposable income and consumers will be more cautious. And yes our habits will shift.”

Prior to the forced closings, national unemployment was at 3.5 percent, and Hudanick said manufacturers in Franklin County had only two eligible applicants for every 10 employment openings.

Franklin County reported new jobless claims in April 2020 totaling 5,083, which was the highest one-month rise in more than 12 years, dating back to the Great Recession of 2008.

The second highest single month of new jobless claims in Franklin County was March 2020 with 3,670, and May 2020 ranks fourth in a dozen years with 2,015 new jobless claims.

Before the coronavirus collapsed the economy this spring, the highest single month of new jobless claims in Franklin County was 2,358 in November 2008, with an unemployment rate of 9.4 percent.

Statewide, the unemployment rate rose to 10.1 percent in May 2020, and 12,134 new claims in the week ending July 18.

In the last few months, the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations’ Division of Employment Security saw a 254 percent increase in initial claims compared with all the initial claims it processed in 2019.

The highest unemployment rate in Franklin County in the past decade was 13.1 percent in February 2010.

The lowest unemployment rate since 2008 was September 2019 and October 2018, with both months showing just 2.1 percent unemployment and a combined 485 new claims.

The least number of new claims in a month was 142 in September 2018.