Desired Trend


Current Trend

Baseline (2010): 9.5%
Current (2021): 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 3.5 and 4.5 percent.2

How are we Doing?

Despite the 2020 recession due to COVID-19, unemployment in the St. Louis eight-county region decreased from 9.5 percent in the baseline year 2010 to 4.6 percent in 2021. The unemployment rate in the St. Louis region closely tracks the national unemployment rate. It briefly increased following the 2001 recession and increased substantially following the recession of 2007-2009. Unemployment had steadily declined since 2010, until the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2009, the St. Louis region reached the highest annual unemployment rate, 9.6 percent, since at least 2001. Over the next decade, the annual unemployment rate steadily declined to 3.1 percent in 2019. By the end of 2020, the annual unemployment rate was 6.8 percent, more than double the rate in 2019. In 2021, the unemployment rate recessed a little but was still higher than prior to the pandemic. The number of unemployed people in the St. Louis region grew from 47,000 in 2000 to 130,000 in 2010. Then, it declined to 42,000 unemployed people in 2019. At the height of the pandemic, 90,000 people in St. Louis were unemployed. As of 2021, the number of unemployed people in the region decreased to 63,000.

The annual data shows that unemployment in the years surrounding the recession beginning in 2007 was higher than in the 2020 recession. However, when looking at monthly data for the St. Louis MSA, the unemployment rate reached 13 percent in April 2020, the last month of the recession. Unemployment following the 2007 recession reached a peak in 2010 of 10.4 percent in January and February. For more detail on employment during the COVID-19 pandemic, see an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data by East-West Gateway Council of Governments

Nationally, the annual unemployment rate followed a similar trend. After experiencing an annual unemployment rate of 9.6 percent in 2010 as a result of the 2007 recession, it fell to 3.7 percent by 2019. A year later, in 2020, the annual unemployment rate was 8.1 percent, higher than for the St. Louis region. In 2021, the national unemployment rate fell to 5.3 percent. Among the peer metropolitan regions, the St. Louis MSA had a lower than average unemployment rate in 2021, ranking 31st among peer regions. Among the peer regions, Las Vegas had the highest rate (8.3 percent) and Salt Lake City had the lowest rate (2.8 percent).


Geographic Level

St. Louis eight-county bi-state region, including Franklin, Jefferson, St. Charles, and St. Louis counties and the 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 2018; accessed on 10 December 2018 at http://www.federalreserve.gov/faqs/economy_14424.htm.

Data Sources

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