Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Turning Point: Reports Lists Ways to Offset Defense Cuts

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Turning Point: Reports Lists Ways to Offset Defense Cuts

Article excerpt

St. Louis has taken heavy hits from Pentagon cutbacks in the post-Cold War era. And more cuts are coming, a new study says.

But the report adds that high-paying, high-skill jobs could be saved if local public officials and companies expand support programs for new firms.

"St. Louis . . . is highly vulnerable to further military cut-backs," said Michael Oden, chief author of "Changing the Future: Converting the St. Louis Economy."

Oden and report director Ann Markusen are economists with Rutgers University in New Jersey. They presented their findings last week to the St. Louis Economic Adjustment and Diversification Committee.

The committee is a public-private group helping military contractors convert to the civilian market.

In overall terms, St. Louis has been harder-hit by manufacturing cutbacks than the rest of the nation, said Oden.

"Total manufacturing employment in the St. Louis region declined by close to 34,000 (jobs) between 1979 to 1989 - a staggering 13.1 percent," Oden said in the report. "This is much higher than the corresponding national decline of 6.8 percent."

Oden said this reduction came despite an increase of 13,000 jobs at McDonnell Douglas Corp. during the same period, which resulted from the Reagan administration's military build-up of the 1980s.

Since the beginning of the 1990s, with the end of the Cold War, McDonnell Douglas lost more than 15,000 jobs of all types. This cut the work force at the area's largest employer to about 24,000 jobs from more than 40,000 jobs.

The latest figures from the Missouri Department of Employment Security show that unemployment dropped to 5.7 percent in October from 6 percent in September.

That comes despite a 6,100-job decline in manufacturing positions since the start of the year, most of which were at the General Motors Corp. plant at Wentzville.

The more recent local Missouri jobless figures show a decline of 17,000 manufacturing jobs since 1990 in the St. Louis area. Most of the jobs were at McDonnell Douglas and General Motors.

While job-creation programs are being pushed, Oden said, money and efforts are being misapplied to generate lower-paying service jobs, like those in tourism. …

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