By Karen Lentz
The state unemployment rate increased to 5.7 percent in December, 0.1 percentage point above 5.6 in November, and one percentage point above the national rate of 4.7 percent, according to seasonally adjusted preliminary data released Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The preliminary data shows a higher unemployment rate for the Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights metropolitan area of 5.9 percent.
Illinois posted the largest decrease in nonfarm payroll employment of any state in the U.S., losing 16,700 jobs over the month of December, according to BLS data.
“Nonfarm payrolls reflect the job market and this kind of drop is troubling, to say the least,” Illinois Department of Employment Security Director Jeff Mays said in a press release.
Drops occurred across nearly all industry sectors, including education and health, which lost 5,400 jobs, business services, with 3,600, and construction, with 3,200. The one sector that added jobs in the month was financial services, which posted a gain of 1,600.
The state’s unemployment rate has decreased by 0.4 percentage points over the year, from 6.1 percent a year ago.
Over the year, nonfarm payroll employment in the state increased by 28,400 jobs with the largest gains in professional and business services and leisure and hospitality.
“It’s important to put the numbers in the context of where we were a year ago,” Peter Norlander, assistant professor of human resources and employment relations at Loyola University of Chicago, said of the December reports.
Norlander noted that the Illinois economy is showing slow but steady growth, consistent with the national pattern.
State officials drew attention to high losses in construction, manufacturing, and other areas, blaming deadlock in Springfield.
“Illinois needs structural reforms and a balanced budget to attract new jobs and investment in our state. We cannot repair the damage of losing 11,000 manufacturing jobs, 9,700 construction jobs and 5,800 information and financial activities jobs over the course of just one year without real changes that create growth and opportunity in our economy,” Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity Acting Director Sean McCarthy said in the release.
State employment data for January 2017 is scheduled to be released Mar. 13.