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Missouri ranks first in job loss

April 15, 2003
By: David Bryan
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Chamber of Commerce declared a state of emergency in response to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Labor that said Missouri led the country in job loss last year--in terms of raw numbers.

Various members of both the Missori and U.S. Chambers of Commerce gathered Tuesday for a press conference to comment on the report, which said Missouri lost nearly 78,000 jobs last year; more than any other state.

"This is a crises and we are here today to urge lawmakers and the administration to use the precious weeks left in the session to address this all-too-real emergency," said Dan Mehan, president of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce.

But according to the Department of Economic Development these numbers only tell half of the story.

"Certainly a decrease in the size of the workforce is a point of concern, but there is also good news. The unemployment rate is lower than most other states," said Jim Grebing, Spokesperson for the Department of Economic Development.

Grebing also mentioned that between 1994 and 2000, when the national economy was stronger, Missouri's workforce grew by 266,000, which would compensates for losses incured over the last year.

"For the Chamber (of Commerce) to suggest that the sky is falling in Missouri's economy is a stretch," Grebing said.

In response to the large job loss, the Chamber of Commerce is proposing more restrictions on workers' compensation claims as well as caps on lawsuit liability recoveries, which they said would create a better business climate in Missouri bringing in more jobs.

"The best thing Gov. Holden can do today to stop the job losses is listen to the Missouri Chamber Federation and pass the reforms that reward Missouri's workers," said Brett Hamm, Regional Executive Director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

"Passing these laws will send a clear message that Missouri is open for business," said Hamm.

But Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Boone County disagreed and called such measures "cruelty to human beings." He said the loss of jobs in Missouri is due to many factors but not a poor business climate as the Chamber of Commerce suggested in its statement Tuesday.

"This is about a group with a lot of political power taking advantage of their political power and the worker," Jacob said.

"What you have represented by the Chamber of Commerce and the Associated Industries is nothing more than pure unadulterated greed--period. And a lack of respect for their employees," he said.

Currently there is legislation before the General Assembly addressing both caps on lawsuit liability recoveries and restrictions on workers' compensation claims.