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Parson’s Numbers Touting Missouri’s Economy Have Mixed Value, Experts Say

Missouri Governor Mike Parson addresses senators and an audience gathered in the view gallery during his State of the State address on Wednesday, January 27, 2021, in the Senate Chambers of the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City.
Missouri Governor Mike Parson addresses senators and an audience gathered in the view gallery during his State of the State address on Wednesday, January 27, 2021, in the Senate Chambers of the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson often repeats some numbers designed to promote Missouri’s economy as healthy and vibrant.

But not all of those numbers have the same level of reliability, experts say.

“We’re now seventh in the United States of people wanting to come to our state. We’re in the top 10 for businesses wanting to come to the state of Missouri,” Parson said last week as he signed a bill that allowed for the collection of sales taxes on online purchases and also lowered the state’s highest income tax rate.

Those statistics come from U-Haul and Site Selectors Guild, said a spokesperson for the governor.

Rankings from companies or associations may not be accurate, said Max Gillman, economics professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

“I don’t know how U-Haul computes these measures, and so, of course, the actual statistic and how it’s computed would be important,” Gillman said.

According to U-Haul’s website, “growth states are calculated by the net gain of one-way U-Haul trucks entering a state versus leaving that state in a calendar year.”

Another moving company, United Van Lines, has a similar ranking based on its trucks. Missouri isn’t in its top 10, and there are only three states that are in the top 10 of both U-Haul and United Van Lines’ lists.

And while Missouri may be a top choice among the Site Selection Guild, it isn’t in the top 10 on Site Selection Magazine’s list.

But there is a statistic that Parson mentions consistently that is widely held as accurate and important: the unemployment rate.

According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the May unemployment rate in Missouri was 4.2%, lower than the national rate of 5.5% and Illinois’ 7.1%.

“That’s probably the most important statistic, and with Missouri down into the 4 range, that’s very, very good after this pandemic,” Gillman said.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JonathanAhl

Copyright 2021 St. Louis Public Radio

Jonathan Ahl reports from the Rolla Bureau for St. Louis Public Radio. His duties also include covering central and southern Missouri for Harvest Public Media. Before coming to St. Louis Public Radio in November of 2018, Jonathan was the General Manager for Tri States Public Radio in Macomb, Illinois. He previously was the News Director at Iowa Public Radio and before that at WCBU in Peoria, Illinois. Jonathan has also held reporting positions in central Illinois for public radio stations. Jonathan is originally from the Chicago area. He has a B.A. in Music Theory and Composition from Western Illinois University and an M.A. in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield. He is an avid long distance runner, semi-professional saxophonist and die-hard Chicago Cubs fan.