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Report: Jobless rate in DeKalb County lowest since 2008

DeKALB – DeKalb County has the lowest unemployment rate since 2008, recently released data shows, but employment officials remain cautiously optimistic about job growth during summer months known for their economic drag.

The unemployment rate in DeKalb County fell to 6.4 percent in May, a 1.8 percent drop from May 2013 when the county had an 8.2 percent unemployment rate, according to seasonally unadjusted data from the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

“That’s a big drop,” IDES spokesman Greg Rivara said. “You have unemployment rates that are starting to match rates from 2008, right before the bottom dropped out.”

Of the 58,419 people counted among the labor force in DeKalb County – those employed or unemployed and actively seeking work – 3,738 people were unemployed in May. The last time DeKalb County had an unemployment rate below 7 percent was in December 2008 when unemployment was measured at 6.1 percent.

The City of DeKalb’s unemployment rate mirrored that of the county, dropping to 6.7 percent compared with 8.3 percent in May 2013, according to the report. In DeKalb, 1,599 people of the 23,729 member labor force were unemployed in May.

Some employment growth can be credited to the 20 employers who have moved to or expanded in the county in the past three years, said Paul Borek, executive director of the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation.

Despite the positive numbers, Borek said many business owners in DeKalb County remain guarded in their outlook for the future because they are uncertain about financial policies at the state and national level. Still, he expects local employment to hold steady or increase because employers are seeing a greater demand for products or services.

“There remains an air of caution, but there is more hope than there was a year ago,” Borek said.

Statewide, the seasonally adjusted rate fell to 7.5 percent in May, the lowest rate since November 2008, which Rivara said reflects the economic recovery and increase in consumer confidence. Of the 6.5 million people in the state’s labor force, 467,219 were unemployed in May.

However, Rivara, like Borek, has some reservations about what unemployment numbers from June and July will look like.

“In the previous summers the national economic recovery hit the pause button,” Rivara said. “So we want to see what’s going to happen this summer.”

In DeKalb County, June and July typically see a spike in unemployment. In June and July 2013, the county had 9.5 percent and 8.6 percent unemployment rates, respectively. In 2012, the unemployment rate was 9.3 percent in June and 8.9 percent in July.

The culprit could be people curbing discretionary spending in the summer, which Rivara explained drives two-thirds of economic growth in the state.

But areas like DeKalb deal with another factor that cuts jobs for locals in the summer.

“With the university there, there could be a lot of jobs that go away,” Rivara said.

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