Region's jobless rate falls as federal fiscal cliff looms

Posted: Dec. 27, 2012 4:59 pm Updated: Jan. 17, 2013 5:07 pm

Herald-Whig Senior Writer

Unemployment rates for November were generally down in the region, and economists were guardedly optimistic about the slow improvement, even as they warned about possible problems.

"The trend of falling unemployment rates across Illinois shows that our economy continues to improve," said Jay Rowell, director of the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

"The largest challenge to local economic growth is the fiscal cliff. Economic progress could slow at every level, and we risk another recession if Congress does not work together to craft a solution."

Phil Conover, interim president of the Great River Economic Development Foundationn, said business officials in Adams County have been hearing or reading every day about the failure of Congress to prevent higher tax rates and automatic spending cuts in federal programs starting Jan. 1. That makes employers nervous about the economy and reluctant to spend money.

"When you have uncertainty, that slows down the flow of capital. To get growth, capital must move, must flow," Conover said.

John Fougere of the Missouri Department of Economic Development said the state's jobless rate fell in November, even though 6,800 nonfarm jobs were lost during the month. Fougere said that blip of job losses needs to be put in context with the 31,000 net new jobs in the past year.

Local counties continued to report low unemployment rates.

In Illinois, Brown County's 4.6 percent jobless figure was the lowest in the state and neighboring Adams County was in second place at 5.7 percent.

Conover said those low rates draw the attention of economic developers in other regions.

"I get questions about ‘how do you guys do that?' " he said.

"We've come to expect those good economic reports in Quincy and Adams County, but with the fiscal cliff issue, we can't assign a permanence to that."

In Missouri, Scotland County's 4.2 percent jobless rate put it in a tie for second-lowest in the state with Boone County, trailing only Mercer County's 4.1 percent figure.