State unemployment rate drops to six-year low

By Sean Phee

Illinois’ unemployment rate dropped to its lowest level since July 2008.

The unemployment rate is 6.6 percent, and the state had the steepest one-year decline in unemployment in 30 years, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

Steve Payne, owner of Quatro’s Deep Pan Pizza and a member of the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce, said Carbondale is different than many other communities in the state, so a drop in unemployment affects the city differently.


Payne, the Board President of Carbondale Main Street, said Carbondale does not have many large industries like other places in Illinois and instead relies on the university for employment.

A statewide increase in employment may not affect Carbondale as much as other communities because of a nine-year enrollment decline that stopped this year, he said.

With such a large university in such a small town, SIU is Carbondale’s biggest employer, Payne said. He said low enrollment means less money for the school and less students buying things in the town.

“Carbondale employment may parallel SIU enrollment,” Payne said.

Likewise, the unemployment rate in Carbondale was significantly higher in the summer, according to the United States Department of Labor website.

Payne said the lack of on-campus students in the summer is the reason for the spike in unemployment.

The department’s website said Carbondale’s unemployment rate has a different pattern than the rest of the state.


It changed drastically over the course of a couple months, but never fluctuated higher than 9.5 percent during the recession, while the rest of the state dealt with a rate higher than 11 percent, according to the department’s website.

Students have said they see the change.

Tevin Faulkner, a junior from Chicago studying art, said the falling unemployment rate has benefited him.

“When I first got to SIU, I applied everywhere in town and would get a call back maybe 1 percent of the time,” said Faulkner, an employee at the Student Health Center. “Now it seems like I can get hired anywhere in town.”

One student said he is more hopeful about employment prospects after graduation.

Michael Ashby, who graduated in May, said his post-graduation job prospects are higher than he thought they would be.

“When I started college, the economy was terrible and everyone was worried about being able to find work after taking out all these college loans,” Ashby said. “This summer I was able to find a good job a month after graduating.”

Gov. Pat Quinn was quick to address the unemployment drop during his re-election campaign.

During the Oct. 20 debate between Quinn, a Democrat, and his challenger, Republican Bruce Rauner, Quinn said the drop in unemployment was because of his policies as governor.

“Jobs are up, way up, and unemployment is down, way down,” Quinn said. “We should keep this momentum going.”

Rauner said while there is job growth, Quinn has not done nearly enough, as Illinois’ unemployment rate is still higher than most states.

“Illinois has been doing better even though it lags behind other states,” said David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.

Illinois was hit hard by the 2008 recession and has had one of the higher unemployment rates since then, Yepsen said.

The department of labor’s website says the national unemployment rate is 5.9 percent. Illinois has the 16th-highest unemployment rate in the nation, which is an improvement from 11th-highest in July.

Yepsen said state policies could play into the drop, but the whole country is experiencing a decrease in unemployment.

“Mostly I think it was the overall growth in the national economy,” Yepsen said. “The overall economy is healing and so I expect Illinois’ will continue to get better along with it.”

Sean Phee can be reached at [email protected] or 536-3311.ext. 254.