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Illinois lost more than 50,000 jobs in manufacturing

by Da Yan
Jan 12, 2010

More than 700 Illinois manufacturing companies closed and 51,925 people lost jobs between November 2008 and November 2009, according to a report by Manufacturers’ News Inc., an Evanston publisher of state manufacturing directories and databases.

The report stated that the furniture and fixtures industry suffered most by percentage, down 12.5 percent, or 1877 jobs lost.  A spokeswoman for Manufacturers' News, Jennifer Ratcliff, said that layoffs by Edsal Manufacturing Co. Inc., of Chicago, and Interlake Mecalux Inc., at its plant in Pontiac, accounted for the most jobs lost in furniture manufacturing. Jobs in wood and lumber products declined 11.4 percent, followed by transportation equipment, which had 4694 jobs lost, a 9.7 percent decrease.

Lynn Kull, owner of Kull Furniture Galleries in Altamont, said he's had to let go three of his five employees. He's angry Wall Street, which, he declared, “took all the trust and confidence away from small men.”

“Tragedy is a tool a living man uses to gain wisdom. It is not a standard of living. That’s from Robert Kennedy,” Kull said. “The future?" With an expletive, he exclaimed, "goodbye.”

Adolfo Laurenti, deputy chief economist at Mesirow Financial Holdings Inc., said the job loss in furniture and wood products was high largely because of the housing market’s decline, and transportation equipment job losses were related to the auto industry.

Chicago lost almost 10,000 jobs between November 2008 and November 2009, the greatest decline among the top 10 cities in Illinois. Des Plaines lost 1,742 jobs for the highest percentage loss, 14.4 percent, according to Manufacturers’ News.

“It’s not surprising. We are in recession,” said Jim Nelson, vice president for communications and marketing for the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association. “Historically, Illinois is among the last states to enter a recession, and among the very last states to recover from a recession.”

Nelson said the association advocates passage of Illinois House Bill 4599 to offset some costs of manufacturing. The bill would create an exemption from utility taxes imposed on energy used during the production process.

Laurenti of Mesirow said that to improve employment in manufacturing, Illinois needs to create an economic environment that has lower taxes, better services and a more educated workforce. House Bill 4599, he said, will not make a big difference.

“I think there are more structural problems holding back manufacturing employment,” Laurenti said. He predicted that in the first half of this year there will be more jobs lost, though there might be some turnaround in the second half depending on the strength in the economy.