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County unemployment down year-over-year

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DeKALB – DeKalb County employment continued its positive trends in October, but the four-month streak of declining unemployment rates was snapped.

The county unemployment rate increased from 6.9 percent in September to 7.4 percent in October despite adding 54 workers to the employment total, according to preliminary data released Wednesday by the Illinois Department of Employment Security. The unemployment rate increased in part because of growth in the labor force, which increased from 59,717 in September to 60,129 in October.

Norman Kelewitz, an employment analyst with IDES, said the increase in labor force and number of people employed is a good indicator, because it means people are attracted to the area and motivated to actively look for work after seeing the improvements in the past year.

“When the economy improves, people enter the labor force looking for work – people who previously weren’t looking,” Kelewitz said. “And DeKalb County has been growing for quite a while.”

The more important indicator and trend, Kelewitz said, was the employment rates from the same month last year. For 11 months in a row, the county has had a lower unemployment rate compared with the previous year’s mark. The unemployment rate in October 2011 was 8.5 percent.

Kelewitz said seasonal factors often affect month-to-month employment rates, which is why it is more accurate to look at year-over-year comparisons.

“It has taken a long time to improve,” he said. “But things have been moving in the right direction for quite a while now.”

In the Chicago metro area, which includes DeKalb County, unemployment also bumped up from 8 percent to 8.4 percent from September to October but was down from 9.8 percent in October 2011.

The region also added 24,200 jobs compared with last October.

Kelewitz said one factor that could stop the positive economic trends is inaction from Congress on the “fiscal cliff” – a series of tax increases and major spending cuts that are set to take effect in January.

“That’s going to apply to DeKalb County and all areas of the U.S.,” he said of the results Congress’s potential inaction on the fiscal issue.

Illinois has added 158,200 private sector jobs since January 2010 after nearly two years of consecutive monthly losses. Last month, the number of unemployed individuals fell by 1,100 people statewide.

The unemployment rate identifies those who are out of work and seeking employment. A person who exhausts benefits, or is ineligible, still will be reflected in the unemployment rate if they actively seek work.

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