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Rosier outlook, weather boost labor force in April

Rosier outlook, weather boost local labor force

April unemployment rates in all 12 Illinois metropolitan areas fell to their lowest level in 6 years, according to preliminary data from IDES and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In April, the unemployment rate was 7.2 percent in Illinois. At its recessionary peak in January 2010, the state’s rate hit 12.2 percent. Nationally, the unemployment rate was 5.9 percent in April and 10.6 percent in January 2010.

That improvement could also be seen throughout the region. Carroll and Bureau counties saw the largest jobless rate drops, both down 2.4 percent from the previous month. In April, Carroll was at 7.4 percent, and Bureau’s jobless rate came in at 7.1 percent.

Ogle County still has the highest rate in the region, but it did escape double digits, moving from 10.4 percent to 8.3 percent.

Whiteside County’s rate dropped from 8.7 percent to a region low of 6.9 percent in April. Lee County checked in at 7.1 percent in April, down from 8.8 percent in March.

Among the five counties, Bureau experienced the largest year-over-year drop in its unemployment rate. Bureau’s was down 1.7 percent, while the smallest year-over-year decline was Carroll’s 1.0 percent.

The post-recession lows indicate employers are gradually feeling more confident about the economy and hiring accordingly, IDES spokesman Greg Rivara said.

“We’re not roaring along like in 2006, but we’re not in the depths of the recession either,” Rivara said. “The numbers are starting to reflect where we were in early 2008.”

The business sector showing the most consistent improvement in all of the state’s 12 metro areas was leisure and hospitality, which was aided by warmer weather.

“Across our state, the unemployment rate today is at its lowest level since 2008. That is good news by any definition,” IDES Director Jay Rowell said.

Rowell said the improvement has been steady enough, and long enough, to consider it a trend.

“Independent data again shows that our economy continues to move forward. The trend of more people working and fewer people on unemployment bodes well for continued improvement in local economies across Illinois.”

The summer months might give a great deal of insight into the state of the economy, Rivara said.

“The past several years, the unemployment rate has ticked up ever so slightly at the state and national levels,” Rivara said. “There are no obvious reasons that explain it, but it might be telling if we can break that pattern.”

The unemployment rate identifies those who are out of work and looking for work and is not tied to collecting unemployment insurance benefits. Historically, the state unemployment rate is higher than the national rate.

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