Census, manufacturing help Illinois job growth

Posted June 17, 2010 at 3:49 p.m.

By Michael Oneal | The
Illinois unemployment rate slipped to 10.8 percent in May as the state
added jobs for the fifth month in a row.

But while some sectors such as manufacturing continued to improve, the
overall gains in May were due largely to government hiring tied to the
U.S. Census.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security reported Thursday that a net 16,700 people went back to work in the month, bringing the statewide job gain for the year  to 70,000.

But agency officials cautioned that government accounted for 16,900 jobs, meaning job growth in the month would have been flat to slightly down without it.

The biggest downdraft came from construction, which shed 6,500 jobs as real estate woes continued to dog the economy. Financial activities also slipped by 1,300 jobs, reflecting in part bank closures around  the state.

The good news was that there was strong growth in several other important industries. Illinois manufacturers added 2,400 jobs in May, the sector’s best showing since April 1995 and the third straight month of improvement.  Educational and health services added 1,900 jobs, while Professional and business services added 1,300.

That last category includes placement firms, which economists often looked to as a gauge of future demand for permanent workers.

Illinois’ unemployment rate still tops the national rate of 9.7 percent. But the trend is showing improvement. The May tally was down from 12.2 percent earlier in the year and the state’s three-month moving average was 11.2 percent, an improvement of two-tenths of a point from the April report. But overall, 44,000 fewer people were working in Illinois this May (5.63 million) than a year earlier (5.67 million).

IDES Director Maureen O’Donnell noted that the unemployment rate can bounce around some as previously discouraged workers re-enter the job market. (People not actively looking for jobs are not included in the unemployment tally.) So she counted it as a good sign that jobs are growing and the rate is falling, albeit slowly.

“Five months of positive job growth coupled with two consecutive declines in the unemployment rate offer reasons for cautious optimism,” she said in a statement.


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