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January unemployment rate at 8.7 percent

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[March 12, 2014]  CHICAGO The Illinois unemployment rate fell to 8.7 percent in January, down from 9.2 percent one year ago, according to preliminary data released last week by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Illinois Department of Employment Security. While employers reported 21,600 more jobs than one year ago, record-setting snow and cold restricted construction growth, and the end of holiday-driven sales was felt in retail trade.

Despite a falling unemployment rate and a growing labor force, there were 27,600 fewer jobs than one month ago. The three numbers not moving in tandem is unusual. More people looking for work applies upward pressure on the unemployment rate, and yet it fell. A falling rate usually pairs with job growth, yet the initial estimate suggests the opposite. That the initial monthly data can move in conflicting directions is possible because the data is derived from different surveys. Employment data comes from individuals, and job data comes from employers. To be determined is if the breadth of this particular monthly movement is more closely aligned with a colder and snowier winter than normal or a temporary slowdown in national economic growth.

In January, lower consumer spending following the holidays was evident in trade, transportation and utilities, down 12,500 jobs; professional and business services, down 5,100; and leisure and hospitality, down 4,200. In these sectors, employment contractions were significant in general merchandise and clothing stores, as well as dining and entertainment, and temporary help. Employers reported modest job growth in construction, up 2,900. Significant to this growth was activity connected with buildings, suggesting work continued inside despite cold and snow that dampened construction and other job sectors. Weather will be significant to the outside trades in Illinois at least through April and possibly into May. As a result, other sectors could be affected as well.

Illinois added 240,900 private sector jobs since January 2010, when job growth returned following nearly two years of consecutive monthly declines. In January 2014, the number of unemployed individuals decreased 12,900, or 2.2 percent, to 567,100. Total unemployed has fallen 186,400, or 24.7 percent, since early 2010, when the state unemployment rate peaked at 11.4 percent in February.

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The unemployment rate identifies those who are out of work and seeking employment. Individuals who exhaust benefits, or are ineligible, will still be reflected in the unemployment rate if they actively seek work. Historically, the national unemployment rate is lower than the state rate. The state rate has been lower than the national rate only six times since January 2000. This includes periods of economic expansion and contraction.

January data is delayed one month and issued in March because the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics requires states to revise monthly employment and labor force data. The revisions consider updated census, unemployment insurance and seasonal data.

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Click here for tables (PDF):

  • Seasonally Adjusted Unemployment Rates

  • Illinois Seasonally Adjusted Non-farm Jobs by Major Industry

[Text from Illinois Department of Employment Security file received from the Illinois Office of Communication and Information]

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