Prairie State Wire

Prairie State Wire

Monday, January 27, 2020

Illinois' unemployment dips below 5% but still lags nation


By Robert Hadley | Nov 20, 2017


Illinois’ October unemployment figures show modest year-over-year improvement, but the big news from the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report is that the state’s overall unemployment rate has reached a low it hasn’t seen in a decade.

“Month-to-month changes sometimes obscure important trends," Jeff Mays, director of the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), said in a press release. “Illinois’ unemployment rate (has) remained at 5 percent or lower for eight months – the last time that happened was in mid-2007.”

Mays’ comments came after the October BLS report showed a 0.1 percent drop in unemployment over the previous month and an overall increase of 3,400 nonfarm jobs, the IDES release said. 

Activity in three sectors drove the October growth: trade, transportation and utilities which added 2,800 jobs; education and health services with 2,200 jobs ; and manufacturing with 1,600 jobs. 

Job growth was strong in October in relation to last year's performance and the previous month’s figures. October unemployment was down 1.4 percent versus September, the BLS reported, while the overall amount of workers out of a job is almost 16 percent lower than in October 2016. Moreover, unemployment in October 2017 versus the same month last year is down 0.9 percent. The state’s current unemployment rate is 4.9 percent, down from 5.7 percent in January. 

Additionally, the state has added 17,800 jobs since January, spurred by growth in the financial; sector, which added 14,300; education and health care, which gained 12,900 jobs; and professional and business services, which saw the addition 5,600 jobs.

But despite the improving situation in Illinois in terms of its own historical performance, comparing the state’s joblessness to national numbers shows room for improvement. For example, October 2017 saw national unemployment fall to 4.1 percent versus Illinois’s rate of 4.9 percent. 

The release blamed the soft Illinois numbers versus national growth on losses in the government (down 9,500 jobs);construction (3,500);  and trade, transportation and utilities sectors 3,200). The release also mentioned that nonfarm payrolls were only up 0.3 percent in Illinois compared to October 2016 versus a gain of 1.4 percent nationally compared to the same time last year.

Sean McCarthy, director of the Illinois Department of Commerce, said in the release that economic development efforts would help the state cut its jobless numbers.

“The department continues to see a steady flow of interest from businesses to relocate and grow in Illinois,” McCarthy said in the release. “With our world-class assets, Illinois should be leading the pack not lagging behind the national average. We’re seeing results and winning projects, but we still have work to do.”

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