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Labor expert says Bloomington-Normal employers are still struggling to find workers

FILE - In this Tuesday, July 27, 2021, file photo, a help-wanted sign is displayed at a gas station in Mount Prospect, Ill.  (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)
Nam Y. Huh
The unemployment rate for Bloomington-Normal dipped to 3.3%. That's one point below the state average and marks a 2.6-point drop from December 2020.
Updated: January 28, 2022 at 4:41 PM CST
A labor expert at Illinois State University says Bloomington-Normal employers want to hire more workers but can't find enough people who want to work.

Bloomington-Normal's jobless rate ended 2021 at its lowest mark of the year despite having fewer jobs compared to this time last year.

The Twin Cities lost 600 nonfarm payroll jobs between December 2020 and December 2021, according to data released Thursday by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES).

Bloomington-Normal was the only metro area in the state to see a net job loss last year, even as several larger employers, including electric automaker Rivian went on a major hiring spree.

"Certainly the companies are looking for people but they just can't find them," said Illinois State University professor Victor Devinatz, who studies labor and management relations.

Victor Devinatz
Victor Devinatz

Devinatz said it's likely many of the new hires at Rivian and State Farm came at the expense of other employers.

"People have left their jobs, so even though there are new jobs that were added in, some people who had previously had jobs in Bloomington-Normal might have gotten those additional jobs at State Farm or Rivian," Devinatz said.

Devinatz added many employers are likely still feeling the effects of the Great Resignation. He said some workers took a sort-of sabbatical during the pandemic, others went to open their own business and many left the workforce for good.

"There might have been some non-primary age workers who took an early retirement, who just decided 'You know what, it doesn't pay for me to work a few more years. It's not going to change too much for me and I don't want to deal with the kinds of changes that are going on," Devinatz said.

The largest year-over-year declines were in Financial Activities (-1,000), Government (-500) and Retail Trade (-200). Leisure and hospitality saw the biggest gains (+700), along with Educational-Health Services (+300) and Construction (+200).

The unemployment rate for Bloomington-Normal dipped to 3.3%. That's one point below the state average and marks a 2.6-point drop from December 2020.

Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights (4.2-point decline), Decatur (3.5), Springfield (3.4) and Peoria (3) saw the most year-to-year improvement. The Bloomington-Normal rate is also the second lowest in Illinois behind only Champaign-Urbana (3.2%).

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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