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BN By The Numbers To Plan For Future Economic Growth

BN By the Numbers event logo

Despite a stagnant labor force, decreased unemployment, and slowly rising wages, one Bloomington-Normal economist still calls the local economy steady.

Unemployment rates increased from 4.2% and 3.5% in March and April of last year to 4.9% and 4% in the same time frame this year.

Mike Doherty, the Illinois Farm Bureau’s senior economist, said the less-than-thrilling statistics gathered ahead of Thursday’s BN By The Numbers event don’t necessarily point to a problem.

“It’s still a glass half full for Bloomington-Normal in that we’re stable,” Doherty said. “If you look at these 3.5%, 4% unemployment, it’s statistically not big changes to labor force or employment numbers.”

The local labor force saw a 1.6% decrease in the first quarter of 2019 compared to the same time last year. But Economic Development Council Vice President Zach Dietmeier said that’s a ripple effect from major layoffs in May 2018.

Statistics from the Bloomington-Normal Association of Realtors show new and existing home sales were also down. Year to date, 14 new construction homes sold in Bloomington-Normal means a 65% decrease in sales from this time last year.

As for existing home sales, a 3.1% decrease is largely due to limited inventory, as the average price increased by 5.3%.

Dietmeier said retail sales also remain steady, which he said shows the Twin Cities economy has money to spend, just not enough to grow.

Thursday’s BN By The Numbers event will dig into these stats and decide what can be done to grow the local economy.

Dietmeier said with near nil population growth and a stagnant local economy, this quarter’s talk is focused on creating a better economic future for the Twin Cities.

“We know that we have to find a way to keep our young people in the community as our future workforce,” he said.

Dietmeier said the number of high school students who choose to stay or return to Bloomington-Normal for work could be much higher. He said educating the community could lead to more internships and hands-on activities.

BN By The Numbers is from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at Illinois State University’s Alumni Center.

You can also listen to the full interview:

WGLT's full interview.

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