As nation's economy stabilizes, Missouri's economy continues decline

Friday, September 11, 2009 | 6:18 p.m. CDT; updated 6:10 p.m. CDT, Saturday, September 12, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY - The nation's economy has begun to stabilize or improve, with the exception of a region that includes over half of Missouri, a survey released by the Federal Reserve Board indicates.

While 11 of the board's 12 districts have showed either improvement or stabilization, the St. Louis region - which includes Boone and Cole counties - is still declining, albeit at a slower rate, according to the Beige Book, a compilation of economic conditions published by the board eight times a year.

The city of Columbia "is doing much better than the report describes," said Mike Brooks, president of Columbia's Regional Economic Development, Inc.

Laid off workers and a decrease of operations in manufacturing and services was a major factor for the continued weak economy in the region, said Ruben Hernandez, senior economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. In Columbia, however, Square D - an electric control and distribution company - has hired back 50 percent of its furloughed workers and Watlow, an industrial heater company,has called most of its laid off workers back, Brooks said.

Another reason cited by Hernandez is a decline in home sales and construction, as well as increased vacancy rates within the St. Louis region. Real estate companies in Columbia have, for the most part, seemed "happy," Brooks said. He added that the return of college students has aided in keeping vacancy rates lower.

"The economy is not back yet," Brooks said, but conditions in Columbia seem to contradict the bigger picture of the region.

The Federal Reserve Board's St. Louis region, which includes Louisville, Memphis and Little Rock, Ark., has Boone County as a western border. The rest of Missouri is in the bank's Kansas City district, which reported a steady economy for July and August.

State Sen. Gary Nodler, R- Joplin, speculated that St. Louis' reliance on the automotive and airline industry may be one reason for the region's continued decline in comparison to the rest of the nation.

The Federal Reserve Board's Chicago district, which includes Detroit, reported that auto suppliers have placed more orders based on manufacturers' plans  to increase production, according to the Beige Book.

The St. Louis bank will release its Burgundy Book - a report containing more information broken down by zone - on Sept. 23.


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