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Rockford makes worst cities list

ROCKFORD – Rockford has landed on another “bad” list, coming in 16th among the 50 worst cities to live in the U.S. for the second straight year.

The list published Wednesday in USA Today was compiled by 24/7 Wall St., a financial news and commentary website, and is based mostly on 2016 data that show:

• Rockford’s 7.7 percent unemployment rate was the highest in the state “and well above the 4.9 percent annual U.S. jobless rate.”

• The city’s violent crime rate of 1,658 incidents per 100,000 residents was “more than four times” the national rate.

• The weak jobs picture and high crime “likely depress property values,” with a typical home in Rockford worth $89,200, less than half the median home value of $186,500 across the state.

The city that ranked the worst was Detroit; Milwaukee was No. 10.

Despite Rockford’s ranking, David Sidney, executive director of Transform Rockford, which aims to turn the city into a top 25 place to live by 2025, said the “community is making progress.”

“We have more jobs in the city than 5 years ago; the challenge is filling those jobs,” he said.

Indeed, the jobless rate in the Rockford area fell to 4.2 percent in April, compared with 6.5 percent in April 2017, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security. Hundreds of jobs have been added at Chicago Rockford International Airport, where jet repair and cargo business activity is booming. And at the region’s largest employer, Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s Belvidere Assembly Plant, there are 5,152 workers building the Jeep Cherokee, more than double the 2,314 employees at the plant in December 2009.

“The value of property and conditions of neighborhoods are improving,” Sidney said. This year’s 24/7 Wall St. list showed the 2017 median home value here at $89,200, compared with $87,200 last year.

And Sidney noted 2017 crime figures released by the city, which show violent crime was down 5 percent and property crime down 8 percent compared with 2016 figures.

“There’s still a ways to go,” Sidney said.

Georgette Braun: 815-987-1331;; @GeorgetteBraun


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