The Associated Press December 15, 2011, 4:24PM ET

Illinois unemployment rate falls to 10 percent

Illinois' unemployment rate dipped slightly in November to 10 percent, state officials said Thursday, ending six straight months of increases.

The statewide unemployment rate dropped from 10.1 percent, the Illinois Department of Employment Security said in its monthly report. Job growth in November was essentially flat -- with 600 net jobs added across the state -- but department officials noted that Illinois has added jobs in eight of the past 11 months.

Illinois, however, continues to have higher unemployment than the country as a whole, which had an 8.6 percent unemployment rate in November.

The biggest area of improvement was in the professional and business services sector, which includes temporary workers. Greg Rivara of the Department of Employment Security said many of those additional jobs are likely temporary workers, and a number of them in manufacturing.

"There is an increase in demand for businesses, but not enough of an increase to give business owners confidence to hire full time, hence the temporary hires," he said.

Illinois' manufacturers, which are among the state's largest classes of employers and have about 570,000 workers, have seen improvements this year but are still well short of their pre-recession productivity, said Jim nelson, a vice president of the Illinois Manufacturers' Association. Holiday shopping has been encouraging, he added.

"We're still looking at kind of a skittish consumer out there," he said. "We're going to have to wait to see after Christmas gets over if the increased spending we've seen over the holiday season continues into the new year."

A good indication of real, lasting improvement that manufacturers would see as a reason to hire full-time workers would be increases in orders for durable goods, he said.

Orders for those long-lasting items like appliances dropped in both September and October. November's sales aren't yet available from the U.S. Commerce Department.

Other employment sectors that added jobs in November included leisure and hospitality (600 jobs) and government, which grew by a modest 500 jobs for the month.

Government is another of the state's largest employers with more than 842,000 people employed statewide. But governments, particularly at the local level, have been shedding jobs most of this year.

The one-month gain, Rivara said, may be an anomaly.

"There's no reason to believe that this is going to break the trend of falling government jobs," he said. "You're still nearly 10,000 fewer (jobs) than this time last year."

Construction companies cut a net 1,700 jobs over the month while businesses in the financial activities sector -- which includes residential real estate, areas that continue to be hurt by a weak home-sales market -- cut 1,300 positions.

Nelson called the November report reason for mild optimism.

"Unemployment's still unacceptably high, but we're not climbing and that's the first time you can say that in several months."

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