Unemployment has eased a bit in Missouri as the state seems to be taking baby steps toward recovery.

A two-tenths of a percent drop in the unemployment rate to 9.3% in May might not be as encouraging as it seems though. Federal government hiring, nearly all temporary Census workers, totaled 7,300 jobs. Without that, a net job increase of 4,900 jobs last month would have been a decrease.

State Economic Development Department spokesman John Fougere is quick to point out that Missouri has gained 31,000 jobs the past four months.

“Of the 31,000 jobs the state has created in the past four months, the majority of them have been private sector jobs. So, I think that’s what we’re looking to see,” Fougere says. “So, yes, in the month of May we did have an uptick in the number of federal government jobs due to the Census, but overall, if you look at the whole picture, for the last four months and those 31,000 jobs created, the majority have been private sector jobs.”

Fougere sees an incremental improvement in the state economy.

“Here in Missouri we didn’t see the kind of boom or bust cycle you saw in some states such as Florida, California and that’s maybe another reason why the Missouri economy, as far as the unemployment rate, has been slightly better than the nation as a whole,” according to Fougere.

The leisure and hospitality sector added 1,000 jobs last month. The state reports 700 jobs added in management and 1,600 in other services. The lingering recession cost jobs in the administrative and support services sector, which suffered a net loss of 2,400 jobs. Professional, scientific and technical services employment dropped 1,100 jobs. Health care and social assistance lost 1,300 jobs. Even construction employment fell in May, by 700, though Fougere expects that to turn-around during the summer construction months ahead.

Employment rose in the metropolitan areas. Kansas City added nearly 3,000 jobs; Springfield added 1,200.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [1:20 MP3]