JOPLIN, Mo. — Missouri’s unemployment rate was down to 3.1% in May, a number that’s been falling for several months.

But that means it’s tough to find workers to fill openings in what’s been a strong economy, and that’s something state leaders want to change.

“Everybody’s having a hard time right now, and I don’t know what it is,” said Larry Warren, Atlas Risk Management.

And that’s frustrating for Warren who owns a small business running background checks.

“A lot of initiatives put out there from the government trying to get people back to the workforce, trying to give them more skill set,” said Warren.

And that kind of help is growing. Missouri Governor Mike Parson approved a 2023 state budget that boosts a range of projects like MO Excels, with tens of millions of dollars for workforce development.

“We’re also thinking about, you know, what is the next round of work sales projects look like for example. So, Mo Excels is investments to expand programs that lead to work in high-wage, high-demand occupations. And so you know, those investments have been really critical around the state,” said Zora Mulligan, Mo Dept. Ed.

It’s getting $31.5 million in the new budget.

There’s another $30 million for Missouri One Start which helps with training and developing new skills for workers.

That’s just the start of a list of initiatives to help workers and employers connect.

“Opportunities that will be available through partnerships with DED are going to be doing a lot to strengthen communities around the state, and a lot of those applications or the grants will be available to institutions that are working in partnership with their local communities,” said Mulligan.

$4 million in new funding will help with a workforce diploma program and help create flexible education programs.

The new budget kicked off on Friday so a lot of the changes are just getting underway.