Illinois added 11,600 jobs last month and saw its unemployment rate drop to 5.8 percent, the lowest since last summer, according to preliminary data released Thursday by the Illinois Department of Employment Security.
Still, the state agency’s analysis was gloomy, saying the decrease in unemployment was largely due to a decline in the labor force.
The Illinois labor force participation rate, which measures everyone who is working or trying to, has been falling since April after posting steady increases for more than a year.
“As a result of Illinois’ subpar job growth, every day more than 1,000 people give up looking for work,” Illinois Department of Commerce acting Director Sean McCarthy said in a news release announcing the numbers.
There has been a general decline in the labor force participation rate nationally since 2000, largely due to an aging workforce.
In July, the Illinois labor force participation rate stood at 65.4 percent, higher than the U.S. average of 62.8 percent; pre-recession in Illinois it was more than 68 percent.
The Illinois July unemployment rate of 5.8 percent was down from 6.2 percent in June and matches the rate of a year ago, which was the state’s lowest since the end of the Great Recession, according to seasonally adjusted data. At its recession peak, the Illinois unemployment rate was 11.2 percent, worse than the national average.
Illinois’ recovery has lagged that of much of the U.S., which posted an average unemployment rate of 4.9 percent in July.
The Illinois unemployment rate, which measures people who are out of work and looking for work, has been falling since April after several straight months of increases, following patterns in the labor force participation rate. The number of unemployed people also fell last month, by more than 6 percent to 383,000, though there are still more unemployed people than there were a year ago.
Some labor observers prefer to measure unemployment by another measure, called U-6, that also counts discouraged workers who have stopped looking for jobs or who are working part-time because they can’t find full-time jobs. The most recent state figures available, released late last month for a four-quarter average ending in June, shows Illinois’ U-6 rate to be 11 percent, higher than the national average of 9.9 percent.
The 11,600 jobs the state added in July were mostly in education and health services, leisure and hospitality and a broad category called “other services.” The sectors with the largest declines were construction and financial activities.
The state’s year-over-year gain of 43,200 jobs, a 0.7 percent gain, is less than the national gain of 1.7 percent, the state Employment Security Department said.
On Thursday the state also released seasonally adjusted unemployment data for the Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights metro division. The July unemployment rate for that area was 5.6 percent, down from 6 percent in June and also matching a low from last summer that was the lowest since the end of the recession. The area’s labor force participation rate also ticked down, to 66.5 percent from 66.7 percent.
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