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Morning headlines: Wednesday, July 18, 2012

(via Flickr/Indofunk Satish)

Missouri payrolls decline

Missouri officials say state payrolls declined by 4,000 jobs in June while unemployment simultaneously decreased 7.1 percent. Department of Economic Development officials say much of the decline in Missouri non-farm payrolls came in the local government sector, which shed 3,100 jobs in June.

The state unemployment rate has declined or held steady each month since June 2011. The jobless rate last month is the lowest in Missouri since December 2008.

Mississippi River levee improvements may take longer than expected

Work to improve dozens of miles of earthen Mississippi River levees in southwestern Illinois may take several months longer than expected.The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District Council's chief supervisor says construction on the levels largely will be completed by the second quarter of 2015.

Earlier estimates had anticipated that work would be done by the end of 2014. Les Sterman attributes the delay to the fact it took longer than anticipated to resolve the Army Corps of Engineers' concerns about a key element of the levee design. Sterman adds the delay isn't expected to greatly affect the estimated $161 million cost. And he says it won't keep officials from securing 100-year certifications for the levees by the end of 2015.

Palin backs Steelman

Former vice presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is backing Sarah Steelman in Missouri's Republican U.S. Senate primary. Steelman touted Palin's endorsement as a potential boon in a GOP primary in which all three main candidates have been trying to appeal to conservatives.

Palin's statement praised Steelman as a "commonsense conservative woman" who has stood up to the political establishment "to stop out of control spending and the destructive debt it leaves in its wake."

Steelman, a former treasurer and state senator from Rolla, is running against Congressman Todd Akin and businessman John Brunner in the Aug. 7 primary. The winner will face Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill. A Brunner spokesman expressed surprise by the endorsement, suggesting that Palin "must surely be unaware of Steelman's anti-conservative record."

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