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How Not to Win Media Friends and Influence the Press

If the goal is to make it look like the state is hiding something every month regarding the latest jobs data, the press office at the Missouri Department of Economic Development is doing great work.

If the goal is to make it look like the state is hiding something every month regarding the latest jobs data, the press office at the Missouri Department of Economic Development is doing great work.

Following two months of filing a Sunshine Law request each time to receive the latest jobs data, the department posted numbers online the same day as sending out the press release for March.

Each month, after touting the creation of thousands of jobs in the release, the data would show an even larger drop in the labor force.

Expecting the same song and dance Tuesday when the April numbers were released, hours after the press release was sent out, I noticed something different in the data posted online.

More people started new jobs during April than exited the labor force for the first time this year.

The department, however, noted in the press release that it adjusted the March payroll numbers.

For the sake of comparison and accuracy, were the labor force numbers also adjusted?

I called and left numerous messages and sent a handful of emails. In addition to reaching out to the governor's office, I tried calling the researchers. But the operator sent me back to the press office.

No one has returned a call or email.

I ended up reporting the unadjusted numbers on Tuesday and finally confirmed the news on Friday, after the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released its version of the state unemployment numbers.

A nice person in the press office in Washington D.C. helped me get in touch with a labor economist, who confirmed that it is not uncommon for slight differences between the national and state data.

To make sure I had the most recent data, the media relations person talked me through how to use the online database, where I examined the latest labor force, employment and unemployment data.

Afterwards, I reported what the state might finally consider as positive labor market news.

While 31,500 left the labor force since the start of this year, the state has added 35,500 new jobs.

Since a person must be actively searching for employment to be counted as unemployed, more people were leaving the workforce across Missouri than landing new jobs until last month.

The new jobs pushed the unemployment rate lower to 7.3 percent compared to 7.4 in March.

However, I might be back on the no call list after the state received unwelcome news on Thursday.

The U.S. Department of Labor cited Missouri as the state with the highest weekly jobless claims in the nation, totalling 2,569, surpassing the amount in New York, Pennsylvania, California and Texas.

If no one will return my calls or answer my questions in the state economic development office, hopefully someone within the department is taking the time to talk with prospective new businesses.

By Brian R. Hookbrhook@missourijournal.com, (314) 482-7944

Hook is editor of Missouri Journal, which tracks the economy across the Show-Me State

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Joe Merriman May 19, 2012 at 12:14 PM
The Missouri leaders have been hiding the reasons why they had the 2 state of the art Chrysler plants tore down and sold for scrap pennies on the dollar and getting away with it even though it impacted 43,000 St. Louis tax paying jobs. They don’t want to talk about it especially now that those jobs could have been brought back to work with the American auto industry rebounding again. I wonder why they wanted those plants tore down so fast? Could it have something to do with kick backs? Could have something to do with campaign donations? Could it have something to do with anti American auto workers as in hate crime? I wonder who will solve this mystery.

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