QUINCY -- Things look good in the job market.
The U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits dropped by 12,000 last week to 215,000. That is the lowest application rate in more than 45 years.
Illinois also released its annual audit Thursday showing that the state added 55,000 nonfarm jobs over the past year. Missouri gained 27,300 jobs in the past year.
Unemployment rates in Illinois' 14 metropolitan areas in February matched or fell below levels reported in 2000.
"It's certainly a robust start to 2018, with declining unemployment rates in most areas," said Jeff Mays, Illinois Department of Employment Security director.
Illinois had a statewide jobless rate of 5.0 percent in February, down from a peak of 12.2 percent in January 2010.
Even with unemployment nearing what economists usually call the full employment level, there are jobs available.
The John Wood Community College Workforce Development Center continues to train truck drivers, welders, manufacturing workers and other skilled workers who usually have local jobs waiting for them.
"Because of the demand for students who have the skills and knowledge obtained in our career, technical and health education programs, they are almost always placed in positions when they graduate, if not before," said David Hetzler, JWCC director of career, technical and health education strategic projects.
Employers in Central Illinois advertised 5,600 openings in February, and about 83 percent were for full-time jobs, according to Help Wanted OnLine.
There are jobs available in Missouri, as well.
The Admiral Coontz Recreation Center in Hannibal, Mo., was crowded with employers and job seekers Thursday. McKenzie Disselhorst, executive director of the Hannibal Area Chamber of Commerce, said there were about 60 employers and more than 200 applicants at the job fair.
"In the last month or so I'm hearing from almost every employer that they're hiring right now. They tell me they're having trouble filling positions," Disselhorst said.
Employers at the job fair told Disselhorst they were pleased with the quality of applicants this year.
Jobless figures for both January and February came out earlier this month, after the annual recalculation done by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and state agencies.
The unemployment rate identifies people who are out of work and looking for work. It is not tied to the number of people collecting unemployment insurance benefits.