Unemployment continues slow decline; House returns to Springfield on Monday

Illinois unemployment dips in February
The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) has announced that the unemployment rate for the state of Illinois has decreased slightly, falling to 4.7% in February. IDES went on to report that nonfarm payrolls increased by 15,200 jobs according preliminary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and released by IDES. Unfortunately, the January jobs report was revised to show a slight drop (-1,300 jobs) instead of the slight gain that had been initially reported (+200 jobs).

Over the most recent three months for which figures are available (December to February), job growth improved in the state: posting average monthly gains of 4,400 jobs. That is an improvement on the previous three-month period which had average monthly gains of 3,100 jobs.

The state’s 4.7% unemployment rate remains about a half percentage point higher than the national unemployment rate for February, which held at 4.1%. The Illinois unemployment rate is down from where it stood this time last year, when it was 5.1%. The last time Illinois had a jobless rate of 4.7% was back in in April 2007.

The number of unemployed workers fell to 305,300, which is down by 7.4% from where it stood one year ago. The number of individuals in the labor force was unchanged compared to last month and to last year. The unemployment rate is defined as including those who are out of work and are seeking employment.

To help connect jobseekers with employers who are hiring in Illinois, IDES’ maintains the state’s largest job search engine, IllinoisJoblink.com.

House returns to work on Monday
After a break for the Easter holiday, the House of Representatives will be back in action starting on Monday. The House has an aggressive schedule for the rest of April. We are scheduled to be in session on 14 of the next 19 days.

This is an especially busy time of year in the House. Next Friday is the deadline to have bills out of committees, so there will be many committee hearings over the next few days as members seek to finalize their bills and get them out to the House floor. Any bill which does not make it out of committee by next Friday is considered dead for the year. Those bills which clear committee and reach the House floor face an end-of-the-month deadline for House passage. There have not been nearly as many bills assigned to committees this year as we saw last year, but it is still expected to be a busy week in Springfield.

How much do we owe? 
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $8,571,171,781 in unpaid bills to state vendors. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is estimated to be more than $100 billion.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and many other child safety organizations throughout the state are encouraging Illinoisans to help spread awareness of child abuse prevention efforts this month. The agencies have partnered in the Supporting Great Childhoods campaign to prevent child abuse and neglect through providing families with the support they and their children need.

According to DCFS, there were more than a quarter of a million calls made to the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline (1-800-25-ABUSE) last year. These led to roughly 1500 investigations each week. The agency warns that children who are abused or neglected not only suffer the trauma of the abuse and its physical, emotional and psychological effects, but also are more likely later in life to abuse drugs and alcohol or commit crimes themselves. DCFS is calling on all Illinoisans to join in the effort to prevent the abuse of our state’s children.

More information is available from DCFS at www.dcfs.illinois.gov.

Checking in with the Dwight Rotary Club
I recently had the opportunity to stop by the meeting of the Rotary Club in Dwight to provide a Springfield update. I appreciate Vic Randle and the members of the club inviting me to join with them for the meeting. We covered a variety of topics, including much of the potential legislation coming our way. It was a great conversation.

Did You Know?
The Illinois and Michigan Canal, which runs just to the north of the 106th district, ending in Peru, Illinois, opened on April 10, 1848. The canal linked the Great Lakes with the Mississippi River, via the Illinois River in northern Illinois. Construction took 12 years and cost $6.2 million. The construction of a nearby railroad caused the canal to begin to decline in the 1880s and it closed down in 1933. President Ronald Reagan made the I&M Canal a National Heritage Corridor in 1984.