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State continues to shed jobs; 2015 job loss pegged at 3,000

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By Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network

SPRINGFIELD — December’s employment numbers show Illinois is continuing to lose jobs.

“For the first time since 2009, Illinois ended a year with fewer jobs than when we started,” said Jeff Mays, director of the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

“Even as the nation gained more than 2.6 million jobs in 2015, Illinois lost 3,000,” he said in a Friday news release regarding the December numbers.

Over the year, nonfarm payroll employment in Illinois decreased by about 3,000 jobs, IDES analysts said.

Sectors with over-the-year gains in employment included education and health services with a gain of 6,200 jobs; professional and business services, up 5,400 jobs; and construction, up 5,100.

While several sectors posted over-the-year losses, the biggest tumble was in manufacturing, which lost 14,000 jobs. Trade, transportation and utilities also showed a significant loss, about 6,900 jobs.

“Even as people return to the labor force, Illinois continues to lose jobs at a staggering rate, and statewide unemployment continues to creep up,” said Jim Schultz, director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. “We must make fundamental changes to our state’s business climate to promote growth and job creation if Illinois is going to become competitive and start sharing in the growth the rest of the country is enjoying.”

IDES labor market analysts say the state’s average job growth since employment recovery began in January 2010 remains well below the national average, and employment will not recover from the 2007-2009 recession until September 2017.

Steve Rauschenberger,  president of the Park Ridge-based Technology and Manufacturing Association, said the numbers are troubling. “A lot of people believe the United States is poised on being dragged into a recession by the rest of the world,” he said. “But, for Illinois, the most troubling part is how we’re underperforming the rest of the Midwest and the nation.

Rauschenberger said a good deal of the blame lies on the state’s tax structure, particularly its property taxes.

“We have a property tax system that penalizes job creators,” he said. “Over time, what that does is drives manufacturers to lower cost locations.”

“I think Illinois has a big credibility to climb,” Rauschenberger added. “Even if there were quick reforms, it’s going to take three to five years to start rebuilding the middle class-producing jobs that we all want but don’t have the public policy to support.”

“We need reforms now, but we also need to be patient and let those policies help restore Illinois’ competitiveness to the level we were at in the ‘90s,” Rauschenberg said.

December’s numbers, which are based on preliminary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, show Illinois lost 16,300 non-farm jobs for the month, according to IDES.

The state’s unemployment rate rose by 0.2 percentage points, from 5.7 percent to 5.9 percent. Illinois’ unemployment rate continues to remain above the national rate, which was 5.0 percent for December.

In December, the three industry sectors with the largest gains in employment were construction, plus 6,700 jobs; manufacturing, plus 500; and government, plus 300.

The four industry sectors with the largest declines in December employment were trade, transportation and utilities, down 12,100 jobs; professional and business services, down 4,600; educational and health services, down 2,100; and information, down 2,100.

Illinois is starting to see a bit of improvement in the construction sector, particularly in the Chicago area, said IDES labor market information director Evelina Loescher. That, she added, is one area in which the state has shown continued weakness after the nation began to recover from the 2007-2009 recession.

However, she noted, negative developments in international economies, including China’s, continue to hurt Illinois’ heavy machinery makers, such as Caterpillar Inc.

— Illinois News Network reporter Greg Bishop contributed to this report.

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