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Analyst: Labor market improves

Published: Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

DeKALB – DeKalb County’s streak of lower year-over-year unemployment continued in December.

Although December’s unemployment rate of 7.7 percent rose from 7.3 percent in November, it still was better than the December 2011 rate of 8.4 percent. Norman Kelewitz, an analyst with the Illinois Department of Employment Security, said December was the 13th consecutive month of year-over-year declines in unemployment for the county.

“The economy has been improving,” Kelewitz said. “The labor market has been getting better.”

The county’s labor force grew by about 400 from November to December, increasing to 59,868. There were 4,582 unemployed county residents in December, the data showed.

Norm Walzer, a senior research fellow at Northern Illinois University’s Center for Governmental Studies, said the growth in the labor force was a positive. He added that there could be a number of reasons why the unemployment rate increased month-to-month.

“Discouraged workers are coming back into the labor force and are now shown as unemployed figures,” Walzer said. “There might be cutbacks in businesses. We’d expect more employment in December because of the Christmas season.”

Even though the weather has been temperate compared with past years, Kelewitz said certain job sectors – such as construction and retail – slow down in the winter after the Christmas season.

“January [unemployment] will go up because of less construction, plus a decline in retail,” Kelewitz said. “It happens every year.”

In terms of unemployment, DeKalb County has come a long way since the Great Recession from December 2007 to June 2009. In December 2009, DeKalb County’s unemployment rate was 10.7 percent, Kelewitz said. In December 2006, it was 3.8 percent.

“There has been a vast improvement, but things were very bad,” Kelewitz said. “We’re coming down from a historically very high unemployment.”

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