Illinois unemployment rises again in August
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Unemployment across Illinois rose to 9.1 percent in August, the third straight month of increases in the state, the Illinois Department of Employment Security said Thursday.
State officials say the increases are starting to mirror a similar period of rising unemployment last summer. But the department's monthly report on statewide joblessness indicated that even hiring in manufacturing, a reliable source of job growth in Illinois this year, started to level off.
Unemployment in July was 8.9 percent. Increases in the unemployment rate in June, July and August followed nine months of slow but steady declines. The federal government said earlier this month that the national unemployment rate dropped from 8.3 percent to 8.1, but the decrease was thought to primarily be driven by people dropping off unemployment rolls because they stopped looking for work.
The report, one economist said, underscores just how frustratingly weak the recovery from the Great Recession remains.
"This year is another disappointing year," said Fred Giertz of the Institute for Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois. "We're at a very, very slow pace of growth for a period several years after the recession is over."
Illinois manufacturers added a net 700 jobs in August, increasing the total for the year to 18,900, the state report said.
"Manufacturing's been hard-pressed in the United States for a long time and we had a respite from that the last year or so based on low energy prices and some other advantages the United States has in place," Giertz said. "That may well be getting back to normal."
The state also saw net job losses in construction (1,500 jobs) and trade, transportation and utilities (1,000).
"Construction still remains challenged by the housing market in Illinois," Greg Rivara, a spokesman for the Department of Employment Security, said.
The Illinois Association of Realtors said earlier this week that August home sales around the state were up 23.7 percent from a year earlier, but the state's housing market is still trying to rebound from particularly weak sales during the recession that ended in 2009. The association also noted that it expects the current backlog of foreclosed homes to take three years to clear.
Elsewhere in August, employers in the educational and health services sector added a net 5,300 jobs and leisure and hospitality hiring added 3,500, according to the Department of Employment Security.
Many of those gains, Illinois State University economist Michael Brun said, were likely around university campuses as students returned for the fall semester.
But those numbers aside, Brun, like Giertz, said Thursday's report offered little reason to believe the economy will soon pick up.
"It's just not going really anywhere," he said.
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