Herald-Whig View

Positive economic reports tell part of a story that varies according to where one looks

Posted: Jul. 16, 2017 12:01 am

NATIONAL JOB creation figures for June, coupled with several other positive reports, indicate the U.S. economy is growing and there are still quality jobs available.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported a better-than-expected 222,000 new jobs in June, as well as adjustments upward of 47,000 for April and May figures. Unemployment remained low at 4.4 percent, and average hourly wages were up 2.5 percent from a year ago. Labor-force participation rose slightly, to 62.8 percent from 62.7 percent, even as some employers complained of difficulty in filling jobs. Inflation, a key factor for poor and middle-class people in the face of generally stagnant wages, remains under 2 percent.

Moreover, U.S. stock markets, which usually grab the most attention, have been on a positive run.

With all those good metrics, it might seem the economy is booming. However, while conditions are far better than they were just a few years ago, not all is rosy.

Drilling down into the statistics also shows the economy is not one huge monolith. Some places are lagging behind, others are surging ahead.

Illinois, for example, has been lagging in job creation for a number of years.

"Any gains we've seen in the labor force pale in comparison to other states and other metropolitan areas," said Bob Gough, public information officer for the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

May unemployment in Illinois fell to 4.6 percent, the lowest level in 10 years. Yet the state has seen a slower recovery from the Great Recession than surrounding states. Job creation in Chicago has been far behind what was experienced in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas.

Meanwhile, the indicators generally beat state averages in West-Central Illinois. Brown County has a long history for having the lowest jobless rate in the state, thanks to major employers such as Dot Foods Inc., and the Western Illinois Correctional Center. Adams County also boasts a low jobless rate.

"Quincy has long-time businesses that are stable and have seen a lot of growth. Health care and manufacturing are still our strongest sectors. There are good jobs out there, we just need to find the people to fill them," said Gough, who lives in Quincy.

There are programs designed to connect applicants with jobs.

For instance, a national shortage of nurses resulted in an IDES program to find nurses and nurses aides for the Illinois Veterans Home. Quincy Medical Group sent representatives to a job fair Friday in Springfield.

Manufacturers in Adams County have been working with John Wood Community College to find workers with the right skills. The school's Workforce Development Center has given hundreds of people training in areas that are needed by local employers.

Is the economy booming? It depends on where you look.

The best advice for job-seekers is to look and be ready with the skills and commitment employers are seeking.