By DOUG WILSON
Herald-Whig Senior Writer
Unemployment rates declined in West-Central Illinois in October and went up fractionally in Northeast Missouri.
In Adams County, the jobless rate dropped below 6 percent, coming in at 5.9 percent for the month compared with a 6.1 percent rate in September. Brown County held its title for having the lowest jobless rate in the state, at 4.5 percent, with Adams County second-lowest. Hancock County's October rate was 7.9 percent, the highest in the region but an improvement from the 8.2 percent rate in September.
Unemployment in Quincy stayed the same with a 6.5 percent rate.
In nine Northeast Missouri counties, the largest unemployment rate increase in October came in Ralls County, which saw the rate jump to 6.4 percent in October from 5.5 percent in September. The highest rate among those counties was in Monroe County, which had a 7.9 percent rate, up from 7.4 percent in September. The lowest rate was in Scotland County, at 4.4 percent, up from 4.1 percent in September.
Even with the fluctuations, local jobless rates compare favorably with other states, and some business leaders see good trends.
Wanda Harpole of Heartland Lodge near Nebo said full- and part-time employment at the lodge is between 45 and 50 workers. A few years ago, it was 35 to 40.
"I am continuously hiring new people because of our growth," Harpole said.
At the height of the recession, the lodge had an increase in cancellations by hunters. Harpole said some people said they would have to wait a year or two before taking a hunt. What the bad economy took away from the hunting side of the operation, it added to the bed-and-breakfast operation.
"People couldn't go to Hawaii or Colorado, so we saw an increase in our bed-and-breakfast side, so it balanced out," Harpole said.
Illinois Department of Economic Security Executive Director Jay Rowell said the state added 4,800 jobs in October and is in better shape than a year ago, when the unemployment rate stood at 9.6 percent. The 8.4 percent jobless rate is the state's lowest in October since 2008.
"Job growth and an unemployment rate significantly lower than one year ago shows steady economic progress," Rowell said.
He believes the state economy can continue to recover if Congress finds a way to avoid the "fiscal cliff" of tax increases and program or spending cuts.
Missouri added about 13,000 jobs last month, bringing total job creation to 25,500 for the year.
Bill Smith, executive director of the Lewis County Industrial Development Authority, has seen gains in the economy and expects continued improvement.
"People's attitude is somewhat improved," Smith said. "The growth will be slow and measured, but I see things starting to move in a good direction in the coming months."
Lewis County has seen several jobs added with the arrival of an Ursa Farmers Cooperative facility in Canton, Mo. Agriculture remains the dominant industry in the region, and Smith said farmers and farm-related businesses continue to do well -- even in a drought year.
"Farmers are eternal optimists, or they wouldn't be doing it. There are so many safeguards with crop insurance that farmers put right in their planning," Smith said.
Manufacturing and entrepreneurial jobs also are important for the region, he said, and seem to be gaining traction as the national economy recovers.