Local unemployment down but steady

The unemployment rate in Adair County has decreased slightly, but remains stable overall.

Carolyn Chrisman, executive director for Kirksville Regional Economic Development Inc. said that as of February 2019, the unemployment rate in Adair County was 3.9%, which is 421 residents. This is a decrease from February 2018, when the rate was 4.1%. The rate for the Northeast Missouri region sits at 4.1%, and the overall unemployment rate for the entire state is 3.2%.

“We look at our labor shed,” Chrisman said. “It’s not just people in Kirksville who work in Kirksville, but really a lot of the surrounding counties like Schuyler County, a lot of those folks come to Kirksville for work. We really try to keep tabs not only on Adair County’s unemployment level but then those around us.”

She said unemployment tends to increase in the winter months because of less work for outdoor occupations like construction and landscaping, as well as over the summer when schools do not have as many people on staff.

The Kraft Heinz Company is the top employer in Kirksville, employing around 925 people. The company underwent an expansion in the past year, and Chrisman said this led to a decrease in the unemployment rate.

They have increased their employment in the community by 400-500 jobs, increased their wages and heavily invested in this community,” Chrisman said. “This can be contributed to Kirksville as a great place to do business and to a workforce who can meet employer demands.”

Kirksville assistant city manager Ashley Young said a lot of jobs have been added to the community and continue to be added. He said job opportunities from the upcoming census in 2020 will also lead to a decrease in the rate. He said the trends are headed in the right direction overall, and economic development has been an important focus for the city.

“More jobs means more people spending money here locally in Kirksville, supporting small business and supporting our businesses in general,” Young said. “Supporting our local economy means more revenue for the city, and more revenue for the city means we can better serve our citizens.”

Truman State University is the second largest employer in Kirksville. Sally Herleth, executive director of human resources, said Truman has around 750 full-time employees, which includes around 300 faculty and 450 staff members. Over the past few years, she said there has been a decrease in employment numbers because of issues with the University budget.