Illinois unemployment drops to six-year low

August 14th, 2014

Craig Hinz – Crains Chicago News

August 14, 2014

In news with clear political implications, state officials today announced that the Illinois unemployment rate has dropped for the fifth month in a row, to 6.8 percent — roughly where it was when the great subprime mortgage recession began.

And even better, the decline now is being propelled not by people leaving the job force but by the creation of new jobs, with 11,200 positions added just in July.

Look for the announcement to draw a strong reaction from both Gov. Pat Quinn and his re-election foe, Bruce Rauner. I’ll post their comments a bit later. Meanwhile, here’s the news.

The preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped from 7.1 percent in June to 6.8 percent in July, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security. The state rate is still somewhat above the national figure of 6.2 percent, but the 0.6 difference is just a fraction of what it was a year ago.

Since July 2013, the Illinois rate has dropped an enormous 2.4 percentage points, from 9.2 percent to 6.8 percent, according to the federal data released by the state. That’s the biggest year-over-year decline since 1984, putting the unemployment rate just above the 6.8 percent level of August 2008.

Arguably the better news is that state employers again are adding jobs.

According to the figures, derived from a different survey than the unemployment data, the state added 11,200 private sectors in the past month, and 35,600 over the past 12 months.

The July gains were widespread across various sectors, with professional and business services up 5,900, manufacturers adding 3,900 positions and construction 1,900 slots. Leisure and hospitality dropped 3,800 in the month.

Like the unemployment data, the job figures trail national growth. But they are much, much better than a few months ago.

“The falling unemployment rate seems to be picking up momentum with the warmer weather,” IDES Director Jay Rowell said in a statement. “That is encouraging even though we know there is still room for improvement.”

Look for Mr. Quinn to emphasize the improvement, and Mr. Rauner the need for more.

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