The number of employed people in DeKalb County increased by more than 1,300 from May 2011 to May 2012 – a very positive sign, said analyst Norm Walzer.
“We have more people in the workforce and fewer people unemployed,” said Walzer, a senior research fellow at the Northern Illinois University Center for Governmental Studies. “Right now, it looks like a good situation.”
DeKalb County’s unemployment rate continued its downward trend in May, falling to 7.9 percent, which is down from 8.3 percent in April, according to preliminary data released by the Illinois Department of Employment Security.
The county’s labor pool is healthier than it was a year ago with the addition of about 770 workers. The number of unemployed people also shrank in May by about 560 people compared to a year ago.
IDES analyst Norman Kelewitz said the county’s unemployment rate hasn’t been equal to or below 7.9 percent since 2008, when unemployment dipped to 5.8 percent.
“For more than several months, things have improved,” Kelewitz said. “Things are moving in a positive direction.”
The employment outlook for the Chicago
metro region also is positive.
Anne Edmunds, regional director for Manpower in Illinois, said the Chicago metro area’s forecast for the third quarter looks much healthier compared to the second quarter. She said one of the most positive aspects that came out of the 2012 Manpower Employment Outlook Survey for the third quarter was that 73 percent of employers surveyed do not anticipate layoffs.
“Job prospects really are the best in durable goods manufacturing,” she said, adding that the sector includes automotive manufacturing.
The spring and summer months also brought an increase in construction jobs, and financial sectors are showing improvement, Edmunds said.
Steve Milner, broker and developer with commercial and industrial developer RVG Milner Carpenter, said construction startups have been slow this year.
“We don’t have any major projects booked this year,” he said. “Overall, it’s been a very light year for us.”
He did note that construction of a 33,000-square-foot building in DeKalb is slated to start in August, which could mean about 60 construction jobs.
However, most other sectors expected to show improvement in the third quarter, Edmunds said. She pointed out that growth in the Midwest was better than it was in any other region of the country, which had to do with an improved auto industry and logistics.
“I think confidence is slightly improving and hiring is starting to gain a bit more momentum,” Edmunds said.
Walzer said DeKalb County’s lower unemployment rate may be a result of hiring going on in Rochelle, where an incoming train-car factory and sand factory are hiring.
He said over the month, the county saw a major gain in leisure and hospitality services because outdoor activities increased as the weather warmed up.
Kelewitz said another positive sign is that the county’s unemployment rate has been lower compared to the previous year for six straight months.
DeKalb County’s unemployment rate fared better compared to the state unemployment average of 8.4 percent in May, which was lower than the statewide unemployment rate of 8.6 percent in April. The national unemployment rate increased slightly from 7.7 percent in April to 7.9 percent in May.
By the numbers
May unemployment rates for DeKalb County and neighboring counties by percentage:
Winnebago County: 10.5 percent
Boone County: 10.2 percent
Ogle County: 10 percent
LaSalle County: 9.8 percent
Kane County: 8.4 percent
Lee County: 8.3 percent
McHenry County: 8 percent
DeKalb County: 7.9 percent
Kendall County: 7.5 percent
Source: Illinois Department of Employment Security