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McLean County EDC CEO says the jobs data is puzzling as worker and housing shortages remain

Patrick Hoban B-N By The Numbers Rivian
Emily Bollinger
Patrick Hoban addressed a gathering at the Bloomington-Normal EDC's B-N By The Numbers event at Hansen Student Center in Bloomington in July.

The head of the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council says the latest employment data for Bloomington-Normal is “puzzling.”

According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, the area lost 500 jobs from August 2020 to August 2021 despite electric automaker Rivian and State Farm adding several thousand jobs.

Hoban said McLean County reflects the national trend where many jobs are slow to return amid the pandemic.

“There’s still a challenge when it comes to the workforce. We are starting to notice that here especially in our hospitality and restaurant industries,” Hoban said. “Some of the numbers that have come out recently are a little puzzling because we expected to see a bump in manufacturing, especially since Rivian hit 3,000 employees.”

Hoban said a lack of available housing has also kept the workforce from growing.

“We have four hotels that are full of workers, so we could have more workers to bring in if we had more housing,” he said. “Luckily, there’s multiple housing developments underway to address that need.”

BN Advantage, a collaboration between the EDC and other economic developers in McLean County, has launched a campaign called Commute BN. It uses social media, YouTube and other marketing to encourage people within a 50-mile radius to find work in Bloomington-Normal.

The campaign encourages people to sign up for job leads in Bloomington-Normal. B-N Advantage estimates there are 30,000 workers who commute to Bloomington-Normal.

The EDC will host BN By the Numbers on Thursday, Oct. 21, at Illinois State University's Bone Student Center. The program can also be viewed virtually. Hoban said the EDC plans to offer more local employment data at the quarterly event.

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