Illinois unemployment hits 6-year low in January

By Jin Wu

Regional and state unemployment rates were little changed in January, according to a release Tuesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Illinois reports an unemployment rate of 6.1 percent, the lowest since 2009.

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Illinois unemployment rate has been dropping for six consecutive years, reaching 6.1 percent in January. (Bureau of Labor Statistics, Jin Wu/Medill)

Some people interviewed in the Loop said they can feel it.

Jay Williams, software engineer at Realogic Analytics Inc. said he has experienced the recovering of employment: “I see our company recently hired more people, and I also see people leave our company for other jobs, which usually is a sign that there are many jobs available out there.”

Matthew Love, cook at Red Robin agreed. “I see a lot of ‘help needed’ signs everywhere. Many restaurants are hiring.” He thinks the higher employment rate could boost the economy. “So that we can shop a little more and breathe a little more. I think the crime rate will go down, too.”

Twenty-four states report slight unemployment rate decreases in January. Illinois’ unemployment rate is 0.1 percentage point lower than December’s and 2.1 percentage points lower than in January 2014.

The decreasing unemployment rate gives most people confidence in the recovery of U.S. economy. Peter Baltrus, an accountant at law firm Bellows and Bellows, said the economy is coming back in some sectors and estimated that the Fed will raise the interest rate soon.

University of Illinois at Chicago sophomore Sam Dahal expressed optimism in his future job seeking. “If you look back to 2008 or 2009, I think that was way more difficult to find a job. But right now, it definitely has been improved. There are a lot of jobs available. I think it’s much easier to be employed nowadays.”

Katie Price, a physician assistant in Chicago, also showed confidence in the job market. “I don’t find it hard to find jobs because my skills are in high demand in the market,” she said. “But I think it still depends on different kinds of jobs.”

Not everyone agrees. Some people still show concern about the job market, implying that a gap continues between demand and supply.

Oscar Roman, a drafter at engineering firm Greenley Hansen declared: “I still have some friends who are unemployed. The thing is: although there are quite many job openings, they require higher education. Those lower-requirement jobs are already full.”

Violet Growe, a former medication technician at a Heritage Manor Assisted Living home in Chicago, went to Prairie State College at 48 years old to fulfill the education requirement to be a registered nurse. “You have to be overqualified to get a job,” she said. “Even you are employed, the salary is from hand to mouth. It’s about surviving, not living.”

Although the unemployment rate in Illinois reached a 6-year low, there are still some people struggling to get employed.

Danielle Jenkins has been unemployed since last August. She lost her job as a home caregiver after getting injured at one of her ankles. Now she cannot find a job because lack of education.

“We can do the same thing (that others can do),” she complained. “But we cannot find jobs just because we don’t have the education. I have the working experience, but lacking that piece of certificate prevents me from doing what I want to do.”

Photo at top: Illinois unemployment rate hits 6.1 percent in January, lowest since 2009. (Gwenael Piaser/Creative Commons)