25/07/2024 6:44 PM

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Jobs report shows major comeback for Illinois, though hotel, restaurant industries still struggle

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CHICAGO (CBS) — A promising jobs report shows a major comeback – and one standout is that unemployment numbers in Illinois are down to where they were pre-pandemic.

As CBS 2’s Tara Molina reported, we are told that told construction and hospitality are seeing big numbers and a big return in Illinois.

Meanwhile, layoffs are down 27 percent compared with this time last year – mirroring what we’ve seen with unemployment claims statewide.

Here’s the acting director of the Illinois Department of Employment Security at a recent hearing…

“Unemployment insurance claims data has receded to pre-pandemic levels, indicating a resilient and strengthening labor market,” said Illinois Department of Employment Security Acting Director Kristen Richards.

We ran the numbers, and we’re using January as an example. A total of 57,599 people filed unemployment claims in January 2022 – a figure that is in the realm of normal and even lower than pre-pandemic Januarys. In January 2020, a total of 55,133 people filed, while a total of 53,946 filed in January 2019, and 58,778 in January 2018.

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CBS 2


Prior to January 2018, initial claims were all higher than this January

But those aren’t the only promising numbers. Enter jobs expert Andy Challenger of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

“We really are seeing the labor market start to fully recover,” Gray said.

So who’s hiring? Where are people going back to work?

“We saw the biggest increases in leisure and hospitality,” Challenger said.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas’ report shows retail, entertainment, and leisure, government, and the automotive sector are also all growing.

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CBS 2


But there’s a new factor in the jobs comeback that could change plans for a return to the office – prices at the pump.

“There’s a big drive by employers right now go try to get people back to working in a pre-COVID world, but that’s more and more difficult when it costs employees an arm and a leg to get there,” Challenger said.

In Illinois, we found some are still waiting to see the full impact of the jobs report, a spokesperson for the Illinois Restaurant Association said business is recovering, but challenges remain:

“While Illinois restaurants are slowly recovering, they are still down more than 60,000 jobs since before the pandemic. The Illinois Restaurant Association continues to push for enhanced financial support for struggling hospitality businesses – including our request for $125M in restaurant relief grants from the Illinois General Assembly – which would help restaurants pay their overdue bills, hire back more employees, and ultimately stay in business.”

The president of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association said long-term COVID restrictions in Illinois and Chicago delayed recovery in that sector. The association is optimistic, but said, “When it comes to occupancy rates throughout January 2022, Chicago was the worst-performing market of any major city in the U.S.”

The Hotel and Lodging Association issued the news release below.

“That is the hope,” Challenger said. “Things will come back to some kind of normalcy as we move past the restrictions, and people want to come back to Chicago and come to our hotels and restaurants.”

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