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home : local news : local news July 21, 2017

4/18/2017 2:15:00 PM
Jobless rate drops in latest county stats
Fewer Crawford County residents were unemployed in February.

According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, 6.7 percent of the county's work force was unemployed and actively seeking jobs during the month. This was down from 8.4 percent in January, but unchanged from a year earlier.

In Clark County, the February jobless rate was 5.9 percent. This was down from 7.3 percent both in January and last February.

The Jasper County rate was 6.9 percent, down from 8.4 percent the previous month and 7.8 percent in 2016. Lawrence County posted a rate of 7.6 percent, down from 9.2 percent in January and 8.1 percent last year.

Statewide, the February jobless rate was 5.5 percent. This was a drop from 6.5 percent in January and 7 percent last February.

The drop leaves Illinois' jobless rate at its lowest since late 2007. January job growth was revised to show an increase of 8,100 jobs rather than the preliminary estimate of 1,700 jobs

February's payroll progress still leaves Illinois lagging behind the 4.7 percent national unemployment rate. And sectors like manufacturing remain well below their year 2000 peak.

Last month's biggest gains were made in the government, construction and education and health service sectors. Trade and transportation saw the largest decline.

All but one of Illinois' metropolitan areas experienced decreases in their over-the-year unemployment rate. Six of the metro areas had increases in nonfarm jobs, eight reported declines, according to preliminary data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the IDES.

"More than half of the metro areas statewide lost jobs," said IDES Director Jeff Mays. "Of all the nonfarm jobs gained over the last year, less than 10 percent were outside of the Chicago metro area."

Illinois businesses added jobs in six metro areas, in which the largest increases were seen in Kankakee and Springfield. Total nonfarm jobs in the Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights Metro Division increased.

Illinois businesses lost jobs in eight metro areas including Carbondale-Marion, Peoria and Rockford.

Industry sectors recording job growth in the majority of metro areas were education and health services, professional and business services and financial activities.

In Indiana, the statewide rate was 4.7 percent. This was unchanged from January, but down from 5.4 percent last year.

The Vigo County jobless rate was 5.7 percent, unchanged from January, but down from 6.7 percent last year.

In Sullivan County the rate was 6.3 percent. This was down slightly from 6.4 percent the previous month and 7.4 percent last February.

Knox County posted a 4.6-percent rate. This was down from 4.7 percent in January and 5.3 percent in 2016.

Nationally, 4.9 percent of the work force was unemployed in February. This was down from 5.1 percent in January and 5.2 percent a year earlier.

Fewer Americans are seeking unemployment benefits, which is evidence of a stable job market and greater security for workers.

Weekly applications for jobless aid dipped 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 234,000, the Labor Department said last week. Requests for benefits in the prior week were revised up 1,000 to 235,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell to 247,250 from 250,250.

Over the past year, the number of people collecting unemployment benefits has fallen 6.9 percent to 2 million.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. They have stayed below 300,000, a level linked with broader job growth, for 110 weeks. That's the longest period at such a low level since 1970, when the U.S. population was much smaller.

By holding onto workers, employers are also more likely to expect the economy to grow and potentially hire.

The unemployment rate has fallen to a healthy 4.5 percent as the gradual recovery from the Great Recession is approaching its eighth year. The hiring has helped to sustain consumer spending.

The March jobs report released last week showed that employers added a net 98,000 jobs last month. But in the past three months, employers have added an average of 178,000 jobs a month. That is just slightly below the average monthly pace of hiring last year.

In the past three months, employers have added an average of 178,000 jobs a month. That's much better than March's increase and is closer to the underlying trend, economists said.

That's also just below the average gains of 187,000 jobs a month last year. Hiring should rebound closer to that level in the coming months, economists say.

The job gains last month, while tepid, occurred in better-paying industries, such as manufacturing and a category that includes accounting, engineering and other professional services.

Lower-paying fields, such as retail, cut jobs, while a category that includes restaurants and hotels posted a small gain.

And all the new jobs added were full time, the government said.

The number of Americans who are working part time but would prefer a full-time job fell.

An alternative unemployment measure, which includes involuntary part-time workers, fell to 8.9 percent, its lowest level since December 2007, when the Great Recession started. That's down from a peak in 2010 of 17.1 percent.

Yet there were some discouraging signs:

• Consumer and business optimism has soared since the presidential election. Many companies eagerly await the tax cuts and deregulation promised by President Trump.

Yet so far, there is little evidence that better sentiment has translated into more hiring, spending or economic growth. Companies are adding workers at the same pace they did last year. And consumers trimmed their inflation-adjusted spending in January and February.

• Average hourly earnings climbed 2.7 percent over the past year, not much of a win for workers. And after factoring in inflation in the past year, paychecks are essentially flat.

"Right now, real wages are basically stagnant," said Megan Greene, chief economist at Manulife Asset Management. "That's why things like retail sales growth and other indicators for consumer demand have been so anemic."

The situation is even tougher for front-line workers, who account for the majority of all jobs. Their wages have risen just 2.3 percent, so after inflation they have fallen.

• The drop in the unemployment rate is good news, but it doesn't mean everyone has benefited. Women made up nearly all those who gained jobs, with the unemployment rate for adult men unchanged, at a still-low 4.3 percent.

• Online shopping is taking its toll on traditional retailers who can no longer compete on price or convenience as they once did.

Department and general merchandise stores trimmed 34,700 workers from their payrolls last month. Clothiers let go of 5,800. Amid these job losses, wage growth for retail workers was a paltry 1.1 percent before inflation, far worse than the national average.

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