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Economic survey of St. Louis region is positive

dleafy | sxc.hu

Things are on the upswing for the St. Louis regional economy.

The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis’ Burgundy Book, the quarterly summary of economic conditions, shows positive trends in the last quarter of 2014. That includes a declining unemployment rate, stronger home sales, and a spike in manufacturing exports.

Kevin Kliesen, a business economist and research officer at the Fed, said St. Louis’ economy is beginning to improve at a faster pace.

"The recession hit the St. Louis metropolitan area much harder than it did other parts of the country, so it’s taken us a while to dig out of that hole," he said. "But the data and the optimism that we sense among our contacts suggest that things are beginning to look a little better."

The unemployment rate for the St. Louis region was at 6.1 percent, higher than the national average of 5.7 percent in the fourth quarter. Kliesen said, though, it’s on its way down.

"It’s coming down similar to what it is for the nation in terms of trajection," he said.

Unemployment rate in the fourth quarter of 2014 for Metropolitan Statistical Areas in Missouri.
Credit (Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis)
Unemployment rate in the fourth quarter of 2014 for Metropolitan Statistical Areas in Missouri.

While home sales were weaker in 2014 than the year before, the end of the year saw a jump in sales. Sales were down two percent in 2014 over 2013, but December sales increased 29 percent compared to the same month a year before.

Manufacturing exports in Missouri saw a big leap with a more than 37 percent increase in the last quarter. Illinois, meanwhile, saw a 1.7 percent decrease in manufacturing imports.

Export increases in Q4 2014
Credit (Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis)

According to the report, the increase in Missouri manufacturing came from plastics and rubber products, primary metals, and transportation equipment. But Kliesen suggested caution when looking at export numbers because of the small sample size.

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.