Desired Trend


Current Trend

Baseline (2010): 9.5%
Current (2016): 4.6%

Theme Prosperous


Unemployment Rate

Why is it Important?

The unemployment rate is an important indicator of the health of the economy and the level of opportunity for St. Louis residents.1 A healthy economy has a low unemployment rate because there are enough jobs for those who are able to work. However, a healthy economy will also have some amount of unemployment due to workers changing jobs and new workers entering the workforce. According to the Federal Reserve, the long-run normal level of the unemployment rate is between 4.5 and six percent. This is the rate that unemployment is expected to be at over the next five to six years.2

How are we Doing?

Unemployment in the St. Louis region decreased from 9.5 percent in the baseline year 2010 to 4.6 percent in 2016. The unemployment rate in the St. Louis region closely tracks the national unemployment rate, with an upswing and decline around 2004 and a substantial increase in 2009, followed by decreases through 2016. The unemployment rate for the St. Louis region is lower than it was prior to the recession (5.0 percent in 2006). In 2016, the rate was about the same as it was in 2001 (4.6 percent) but not quite as low as it was in 2000 (3.7 percent). The number of unemployed people in the St. Louis region grew from 48,000 in 2000 to 130,000 in 2010. Since then the number has steadily declined to 63,000 in 2016.

The national unemployment rate in 2016 (4.9 percent) remains slightly above the prerecession rate of 4.6 percent in 2006 (and 2007).

St. Louis has a lower unemployment rate than 23 of the peer metropolitan regions. Riverside had the highest rate (5.9 percent) and Denver had the lowest rate (3.1 percent).

Geographic Level

St. Louis eight county bi-state region, including Franklin, Jefferson, St. Charles and St. Louis counties and city of St. Louis in Missouri and Madison, Monroe and St. Clair counties in Illinois. View map.


1The official unemployment rate does not include underemployed workers or discouraged workers who have given up on finding employment.

2Federal Reserve System, What is the lowest level of unemployment that the U.S. economy can sustain? 26 September 2013; accessed on 15 January 2014 at http://www.federalreserve.gov/faqs/economy_14424.htm

Data Sources

Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS), Bureau of Labor Statistics