By Kevin Lee (217)528-9604
SPRINGFIELD – Illinois’ economic malaise shows no sign of recovery yet, according to one statistical indicator.
The state unemployment rate rose again to 11.1 percent in December, from 10.9 percent in November, according to a report released Friday by the state.
The jobless rate is the highest in Illinois since August 1983.
Illinois Department of Employment Security spokesman Greg Rivara said high unemployment was a reflection of the national economic downturn.
“A national recession sometimes is a lot like peering across water – you know the horizon is there, you can see it, but you’re not exactly sure when you’re going to reach it. This recession feels a lot like that,” he said.
The national unemployment rate has remained at 10 percent through November and December.
State Rep. Don Moffit, R-Gilson, said unemployment tied in directly to the state’s massive budget problem.
“When people are working you’re generating state income tax and state sales tax…so continued efforts at creating jobs, lowering unemployment, need to be at the top of the agenda for the legislature and the administration [of Gov. Pat Quinn],” he said.
Moline Mayor Don Welvaert said his city’s employees have had to make sacrifices in order to avoid layoffs.
“Most of the city employees are going to be required to take three to four unpaid furlough days in 2010. That’s another one of the cost-reduction efforts we’ve had to take in order to make ends meet,” he said.
Welvaert added that Moline employees were scheduled for a salary raise this year, but have agreed to defer the raise until July 2011.
The downturn has not spared TIS Bookstore near the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, according to store manager Brian Paragi.
“We just had to cut hours last fall, which is the first time we’ve ever had to do that. I’ve been here this location for about fourteen years and the store has been here eighteen years, and I don’t think we’ve ever had to lay folks off before,” he said.
TIS had to lay off about 10 part-time workers, and is turning to 75 temporary employees to handle the influx of students returning from holiday vacation.
Illinois lost 16,300 jobs between November and December 2009. The industries hardest hit were construction; trade, transportation and utilities; and leisure and hospitality.
The state saw minor employment increases in financial activities and in the information sector.
“We really encourage people to take an honest assessment of their skill sets, to make an honest assessment of what training, what education that they can obtain to better position themselves to re-enter the workforce,” Rivara said.
IDES is scheduled to release local and county unemployment numbers next week.