Downstate limps along as job growth concentrates in northern Illinois


Willis Tower and the Chicago skyline in November 2013. (Chicago Tribune)

Unemployment rates dropped in August in nearly all Illinois metro areas compared with the year before, but job growth was concentrated in northern parts of the state while much of downstate continued to limp along.

The Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights metro division saw its unemployment rate fall to 5.4 percent last month from 5.6 in August 2015, and the area added 46,800 jobs during that period, according to preliminary data released Thursday by the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

Most of those job gains over the year were in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services and construction. Manufacturing lost 3,300 jobs. Financial activities and the information sector also reported big job losses.


The Rockford metro area added 3,400 jobs and notched the greatest drop in unemployment rate, to 6.3 percent compared with 7 percent the year before. Other big job gains were in the Elgin and Lake County-Kenosha County metro divisions in the northeast corner of the state alongside Chicago.

The data is not seasonally adjusted, meaning it doesn’t take into account seasonal fluctuations in the labor market and can’t be compared month-to-month.

All but two of the 14 metro areas in Illinois reported year-over-year declines in their unemployment rates.

In the Quad Cities, which lost 3,400 jobs over the year, unemployment increased to 5.6 percent in August from 5.3 percent a year earlier. In Bloomington, which lost 2,400 jobs over the year, unemployment ticked up to 5.1 percent from 4.9 percent a year earlier. They were among six metro areas reporting year-over-year job losses.

The Carbondale-Marion, Peoria and Danville metro areas also lost jobs.

“Job growth is primarily confined to metro areas north of the I-80 corridor, and even though it is growth, it is anemic growth when compared to other major metro areas across the country such as New York, Los Angeles and Dallas,” Employment Security Director Jeff Mays said in a news release. “And many of the downstate metros still haven’t fully recovered from the recession.”

In the city of Chicago, unemployment fell to 6.1 percent in August compared with 6.4 percent a year before. The not-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Illinois was 5.5 percent and nationally was 5 percent.



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