Unemployment rate drops, though many remain jobless

By Gus Bode

Meanwhile construction business picks up

Carbondale unemployment rates have remained stable during this time of economic instability, though the state has not been as successful.

The state unemployment rate dropped from 6.7 to 6.4 percent last month, yet jobs continue to record more losses.


“Jackson County has the lowest unemployment rate in Southern Illinois, falling lower than the state or national average, as well. Southern Illinois, like the state and the nation, has seen an economic slowdown within the last few years,” said Raymond Lenzi, the associate chancellor of Economic and Regional Development.

Construction is the only one of the nine major statewide industry groups that has endured an overall gain, according to monthly statistics released Wednesday by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES). This is the best performance by the construction industry within the last 16 years.

As Illinois continues to pay unemployment to thousands of jobless workers, the construction industry has reversed the downward spiral, adding 3,900 jobs in December and boosting employment, according to IDES. During 2002, builders began the construction of 1.7 million new homes and apartments, a 6.4 percent gain from 2001.

The home building and construction industry has been able to maintain an overall gain in employment, though many unemployed workers struggle to find work during this slow winter season and forbidding economy.

Although the construction industry may have increased its performance activity, the national unemployment rates remain high, including that of the construction workers and builders.

Mark Cressey, of Ava, is one of the 44,000 unemployed people in Illinois. Though he is applying for unemployment, he must also struggle to find a job. A recent graduate from John A. Logan’s Construction Management Program, the market seemed hopeful when he was hired within a month of his May graduation. Today, things do not seem as promising. He is spending his winter months, already a slow time for the construction season, looking for a job.

“When things get slow, the low man on the totem pole is first to go,” said Cressey.


With only himself to support, he said, not receiving unemployment will not be the end of the world, though it would help out tremendously with paying bills. The savings he has built and the side jobs he can acquire with his range of skills will be able to help him keep his head above the surface, he said.

“Everybody’s real slow. There are no openings going on. I decided that this would be the best way to get through the next couple of months,” Cressey said.

Unemployment can be provided for up to six months, if the individual is eligible. Last month the Illinois Department of Employment Security sent notices to people currently receiving unemployment benefits informing them of a 13-week extended unemployment benefits to be reinstated. The extension benefit was a result of legislation signed into law during the first week of January.

The checks, expected to go out early last week, will include benefits retroactively payable for Dec. 29 through Jan. 4 and thereafter. This will be the second time the program has been extended.

The extension does not provide additional benefits to individuals who have already exhausted Temporary Extended Unemployment Compensation (TEUC).

In Illinois, a total of $632.4 million in TEUC benefits has been paid out to eligible unemployed workers since the program began last March.

“I am sending out resumes left and right. I would like to stay in the area, but relocation is a possibility,” Cressey said.

Reporter Jackie Keane can be reached at [email protected]