Jobless rates down, labor force shrinking
STERLING – Unemployment rates were lower in the five Sauk Valley-area counties this November than last, according to data released Thursday.
In Whiteside County, the jobless rate was 8.6 percent in November, down from 9.6 percent in November 2011 and down from 8.9 percent in October, the Illinois Department of Employment Security reported.
In Lee County, the jobless rate was 8.2 percent in November, down from 9.3 percent a year ago and down from 8.3 percent in October.
Those unemployment rates were the lowest November rates since 2008, a statewide trend, IDES spokesman Greg Rivara said.
“That’s significant, because 2008 was an important point in this economic cycle,” Rivara said. “It was in 2008 when the strain of the national recession was felt in every neighborhood in Illinois.”
The number of unemployed people living in the area decreased in Lee, Whiteside, Ogle, and Carroll counties. In Bureau County, the number of jobless residents rose from 1,612 to 1,643.
The unemployment number is measured by the county where the unemployed person lives, while the “employed” number is measured by the location of the job.
All five counties had fewer people working there in November, according to the statistics.
Labor force numbers, which includes those working or looking for work, decreased in all five counties from October to November. A decreased labor force can sometimes be caused by jobless workers moving out of an area or getting discouraged and ceasing to look for work.
Theresa Wittenauer is economic development coordinator for Blackhawk Hills Regional Council.
The labor force in the Sauk Valley began to decrease going into 2011, she said, which might be attributed to people being laid off, going back to school or the county’s aging population, she said.
“Some of this can be attributed to natural attrition, people passing on, people leaving the area,” she said.
Significant improvements have been made in Carroll County, where the unemployment rate averaged 9.8 percent in 2011 but was down to 7.8 percent in November, Wittenauer said. That county is no longer considered “distressed” by her calculations.
Rochelle Industrial Park is creating jobs for Ogle County, she said. A Nippon Sharyo rail car plant and Coated Sand Solutions resin coating plant came to Rochelle this year, she noted.
Sterling also is experiencing growth in the form of Wahl Clipper Corp.’s 125,000-square-foot addition it built onto its warehouse last year, she noted. The company has said that will add 30 jobs.
“There are pockets of companies that are expanding,” she said.
While the area is attracting fewer large manufacturers, smaller businesses are popping up, she said.
The decreases in employed and labor forces is not surprising given the time of year – seasonal jobs in landscaping and construction might have ended, Rivara said.
“It’s clearly not what you want to see in the global perspective of an improving economy, but given the time of year, it’s not shocking,” he said.
The statewide labor force increased in November for the third consecutive month, and signs indicate that this area is improving with the rest of the state, Rivara said. Long-term trends still show this area headed in a good direction, he said.
The local economy soon might be impacted by the expiration of unemployment benefits for 90,000 Illinois residents, set to take effect Saturday, coupled with consumers’ worries about the fiscal cliff, he said.
“If Congress is perceived as not working together, that will create uncertainty. That uncertainty will cause people to sit on their wallets and not spend money,” he said.
Below are unemployment rates for five area counties, according to Illinois Department of Employment Security. The data are not seasonally adjusted.