The St. Louis region is home to more than 150,000 business establishments, employing over 1.3 million individuals. The Great Recession of 2007-2009 took its toll on the St. Louis region. Although employment has grown fairly steadily over the last three years, with normal seasonal variation, the region still struggles to regain the jobs lost during the recession. An estimated 1,308,564 residents of the region were employed as of August 2013, about 70,000 shy of the employment level in August 2006.

The region... has now become a leading financial services hub, adding more of these jobs between 2007 and 2012 than any other region.

The sectoral composition of the St. Louis economy has changed markedly in recent decades. In 1969, manufacturing accounted for 26 percent of jobs, employing nearly 300,000 individuals. The number of manufacturing jobs steadily decreased to a low of 106,800 in 2010 but, over the last couple of years, the number of jobs increased to an estimated 111,200 ( July 2013). Despite the recent increase, the number of manufacturing jobs remains below what it was before the recession (134,900 in 2007), and the percentage of workers engaged in manufacturing (8.5 percent in 2012) is still much lower than historical levels. Over the last 10 years, the fastest growing sectors have been real estate, finance and insurance, and health care. In addition to manufacturing, sectors with job losses included construction, retail and government (see table).

Employed Persons, St. Louis Metropolitan Statistical Area, 2003-2013 Employed Persons The St. Louis Region Still Struggles to Recapture Jobs Lost During the Great Recession.Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Income levels in the region are somewhat lower than average for metropolitan areas in the U.S. The average wage or salary per job in St. Louis was about $47,000 in 2011, compared to $50,000 for the U.S. Some of the difference in wages is offset by the relatively low cost of housing in the St. Louis region.1

In 2012, 30.7% of St. Louisans over the age of 25 had at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to 29.1% for the U.S. as a whole. Some 11.7% of adults in St. Louis had graduate or professional degrees, compared to 10.9% for the U.S.The St. Louis workforce is relatively well-educated. In 2012, 30.7 percent of St. Louisans over the age of 25 had at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to 29.1 percent for the U.S. as a whole. Some 11.7 percent of adults in St. Louis had graduate or professional degrees, compared to 10.9 percent for the U.S. When compared with other major metropolitan areas, however, St. Louis lags somewhat in educational attainment. Of the nation’s 20 largest metropolitan areas, St. Louis ranks 14th in the percentage of the adult population with at least a college degree. The St. Louis Regional Chamber has set of goal of reaching the top 10 by 2025.

St. Louis has numerous assets on which to build. The region has a thriving plant science sector with leading firms such as Monsanto and Bunge North America, as well as major research initiatives such as the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. St. Louis is also a leader in biomedical technology. With major companies such as Pfizer and Sigma-Aldrich, as well as two major medical schools, St. Louis has a strong research base from which to take scientific breakthroughs from laboratory to patients. Other thriving high-wage industries include aerospace, securities brokerages and transportation/logistics. While manufacturing has declined in recent decades, it still remains a vital part of the St. Louis economy, employing over 100,000 and accounting for a quarter of the region’s economic output.

Employment in Key Economic Sectors, St. Louis Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)
  2001 2007 2011
Total Employment 1,648,590 1,716,937 1,663,175
Wage and Salary Employment 1,418,565 1,430,235 1,360,500
Proprietors Employment 230,025 286,702 302,675
Construction 92,844 99,157 78,553
Manufacturing 164,945 137,482 112,198
Wholesale Trade 66,289 69,145 64,623
Retail Trade 173,601 176,072 165,932
Finance and Insurance 79,159 86,142 99,025
Real Estate and Rental and Leasing 52,741 70,889 71,719
Professional, Scientific and Technical Services 100,340 109,118 105,469
Management of Companies and Enterprises 50,934 44,944 39,671
Administrative and Waste Management Services 88,583 99,303 102,879
Educational Services 46,868 50,608 50,029
Health Care and Social Assistance 163,215 194,041 205,612
Arts, Entertainment and Recreation 34,932 39,306 39,900
Accommodation and Food Services 112,196 124,181 119,738
Government and Government Enterprises 187,440 187,760 187,114
Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis
St. Louis is nationally recognized for offering a distinctive quality of life ranking 13th out of 35 cities on the Vitality Index, which is an index that quantifies elements such as parks, cultural institutions, sense of place, and neighborhoods.

There is also increased support for and recognition that entrepreneurship is a critical component of the region’s economy. Entrepreneurs create new companies, products and jobs, and attract talent to the region. St. Louis has a rich heritage of starting and growing innovative companies like Express-Scripts, World Wide Technology and Enterprise Rent-A Car, now among the largest companies in the nation. In 2012, with collaborative leadership from the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County and the St. Louis Regional Chamber, the region launched a Regional Entrepreneurship Initiative to create a roadmap for strengthening the region’s entrepreneurial economy. Thus far, the initiative has identified several of the region’s key resources and assets, as well as areas in need of improvement such as start-up capital and expert services.

In addition to finding our niche in the global economy, there is considerable evidence that the region will benefit from finding ways to more effectively use public investments that result in quality jobs. A 2010 study by East-West Gateway found that over $5 billion had been invested over the previous 20 years through development incentives such as tax increment financing, tax abatement, tax credits and other programs. The study also found that much of this investment had the effect of moving retail establishments from one municipality to another, with little net benefit to the region.