All of Illinois' metro areas saw their unemployment rates decline in July compared to a year earlier, but state officials continued to attribute the drop to people leaving the labor force.
The greatest unemployment rate drop was in the Chicago metro area, where it fell to 4.8 percent from 6 percent a year ago, the lowest rate for July since 2006, according to preliminary data from the Illinois Department of Employment Security. The numbers are not adjusted to take into account seasonal fluctuations in hiring and must be compared year-to-year rather than month-to-month.
Unemployment varies widely across the state. The Lake-Kenosha metro division on the Wisconsin border had the lowest unemployment rate in July, at 4.3 percent, while the Danville metro area, on the Indiana border just east of Champaign-Urbana, had the highest, at 7.1 percent.
Meanwhile, the Chicago metro area added 23,800 jobs over the year, a growth rate of 0.6 percent, far less than the 1.5 percent national average for July. Most of the growth was in financial activities, professional and business services, information and leisure-hospitality. Construction and government lost the most jobs in the Chicago metro area.
Job growth was stronger in Carbondale-Marion, Springfield, Bloomington and Lake-Kenosha metro areas, which all had job growth exceeding 2 percent. Four metro areas lost jobs, including Danville, Decatur, the Quad Cities and Elgin.
"The rate of job growth has lessened in most metros that showed gains," IDES Director Jeff Mays said in a news release. "While the gains in the Chicago area over the past year are promising, the drop in the unemployment rate is mostly due to the decline in the labor force."
The unemployment rate measures people who are not working but are looking for work, so it can decline as people give up looking because they are frustrated. The labor force also declines when people stop working to retire, go to school or go on disability.