ST. LOUIS — Missouri's economy remained relatively flat last year, lagging behind the growth that occurred in much of the rest of the nation, according to figures from the U.S. Commerce Department.
When adjusted for inflation, Missouri's economy in 2011 grew just 0.04 percent compared with a national average of 1.5 percent. That ranked Missouri 43rd among states in terms of economic growth, marking the third straight year Missouri's economy trailed the nation as a whole, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Wednesday.
Nearly every sector of Missouri's $250 billion economy either shrank or grew slower than average. Among major industries, only health care outpaced the national rate.
Particularly concerning is the slow growth in the well-paying professional services sector, including engineering firms, ad agencies, lawyers and accountants, said Saint Louis University economist Jack Strauss.
"In Missouri, that sector grew at half the national rate," Strauss said. "We are not experiencing growth in good, white-collar jobs. That's obviously worrisome."
But state officials point out that the commerce figures are just an estimate and that Missouri has fared well by other measures. Missouri's unemployment rate was 7.3 percent in April, a 40-month low and well below the national average of 8.1. The state has done well in recent reports on exports and entrepreneurship.
"These solid trends indicate that Missouri's economy is moving in the right direction and is poised for continued growth in the months to come," said Chris Pieper, acting director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development.