Analysts believe two recently completed projects totaling $7.8 billion contributed to steep job losses recorded in both St. Clair and Madison counties.
According to the numbers released earlier this month by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the two metro-east counties and Clay County, which includes Kansas City in Missouri, lost 2 percent of its jobs between June 2011 and June 2012 --more than any of the other 328 U.S. counties that employed at least 75,000 people. Employment declined in 38 of those counties in that span.
By comparison, St. Louis County witnessed a 0.3 percent decrease in employment and the City of St. Louis recorded a 1 percent jump in employment in that time.
The report cites construction as the largest contributor to job losses in Madison County with a loss of 998 jobs, a 17.9 percent decrease. A total of 452 construction jobs --10.9 percent -- were lost in the county.
The largest employment decrease in St. Clair County was within local government, education and health services industry. These sectors lost 463 jobs -- a 6.1 percent drop.
Illinois Department of Employment Security spokesman Greg Rivara said the numbers do not necessarily reveal that unemployment is larger problem here than anywhere else. He said the latest statistics are coincidental and reflect one point in time.
"You don't read too much into coincidental data like that," Rivara said. "It's a snapshot in time."
The executive director of a member-based economic development organization that serves St. Clair and Madison counties believes the recent drop in construction jobs in Madison County coincides with the completion of the new $4 billion Prairie State Energy Campus in neighboring Washington County and the $3.8 billion expansion at Phillips 66 Wood River Refinery in Roxana.
Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois Executive Director Ellen Kroehne said that in recent years those two developments helped maintain employment levels in Madison County.
"Most of the country has seen big drops and losses in unemployment that we did not," Kroehne said. "These projects were finished and now we see the impact of that. That didn't surprise me at all. I understood that part. We should be glad that we were blessed to have those projects."
Madison County Employment and Training Department Executive Director David Stoecklin agreed.
"They brought in thousands of man hours, and those jobs are no longer there," Stoecklin said. "When you have that many people coming in to do a job, they came in locally and we certainly expected some uptick in unemployment."
Contact reporter Will Buss at email@example.com or 239-2526.