|Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004|
We Mean Business. Illinois Business.
April stats show job losses slowing, tax and fee hikes still worrying businesses
Despite an optimistic picture painted by the Illinois Department of Employment Security's latest statistics, business leaders and economists are concerned about the long-term ramifications the governor's latest tax and fee hikes will have on the "jobless recovery" in Southwestern Illinois and across the nation.
Unemployment figures for the month of April decreased slightly in the IDES' Illinois section of the St. Louis area, down 0.1 points to 5.7 percent. This area includes Madison, St. Clair, Clinton, Jersey and Monroe counties. IDES labor market economist Dennis Hoffman said increased workforce activity reduced the unemployment rate across Southwestern Illinois.
"At the beginning of spring, things were looking normal in terms of the pace of construction projects in this five-county region," said Hoffman. "Only since late May have we been hearing talk of a slow-down in this sector."
But talk of a slow-down has progressed beyond just talk, according to Monte Docter, executive vice president of Collinsville-based Maclair Asphalt Co. Docter said with the drying up of Illinois FIRST projects and in the latest round of roads fund diversions - plus the stall-out of the federal transportation reauthorization bill, TEA 21 - many of the company's asphalt pavers and rollers are sitting idle - as are employees who normally operate them.
"We've gone through a couple of pretty lean years," he said. "And these (fund) diversions by the governor are not helping, either."
Doug Whitley, president of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, said a recent survey conducted by his organization shows that more than 16,000 jobs and more than $120 million in Illinois business investment have been lost since Gov. Rod Blagojevich's implementation of "egregious" business fee and tax hikes on businesses in 2003.
"The governor has created a business climate that's compelling employers to rethink doing business in Illinois, and the numbers are already reflecting that," Whitley said.
As compared to the 5.7 percent unemployment figure for Southwestern Illinois' five counties, Illinois as a whole recorded an April unemployment statistic of 5.9 percent, Hoffman said, as compared to the nation, which recorded a rate of 5.4 percent for the same time period. Hoffman said unlike the regional statistic, the statewide and nationwide unemployment statistics are not seasonally adjusted.
Southwestern Illinois' transition from an economy dominated by heavy manufacturing to one led by services also plays a role in the relatively low unemployment statistics for spring 2004, he said.
"Overall, certain manufacturing industries have actually picked up, those being food and textiles," said Hoffman.
Employment stability in the 600,000-person region of Southwestern Illinois, he said, has also been due in part to a resurgence in the hospitality sector, meaning hotel/motel, restaurant and general tourism.