HIGHLAND PARK, IL — Despite a drop of 0.6 percentage points last month, Highland Park’s unemployment rate was two and a half times as high as it was a year ago. Nonetheless, the city’s jobless rate remained below county, state and national averages.
Statistics from the Illinois Department of Employment Security show 7.5 percent of Highland Park’s workforce wasin August 2020, up from 3 percent in August 2019. That marks a 150-percent increase over the past year.
Statewide, the unemployment rate reached 11 percent last month. Although it has fallen by half a percentage point since July, Illinois’ unemployment rate was still nearly three times higher than it was in August 2019, IDES data shows.
Things were not quite as bad in Lake County, which had the lowest unemployment rate of any Illinois county in the Chicago area at 8.6 percent.
Highland Park’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of was the second-lowest among north suburban municipalities where data from the state unemployment agency was available.
Evanston’s rate was 7.1 percent, Wilmette’s was 8 percent, Vernon Hills had 8.3 percent, Buffalo Grove’s was 8.5 percent, Gurnee’s was 8.7 percent, Glenview’s was 9.4 percent, Northbrook’s was 9.7 percent, Waukegan’s was 9.9 percent, North Chicago’s was 11 percent and Zion had 13 percent unemployment.
Rates of towns with fewer than 20,000 residents — including Deerfield, Highwood, Lake Bluff and Lake Forest — were not included in the state data.
Illinois’ August unemployment rate was significantly higher than the national rate of 8.4 percent.
The number of nonfarm jobs has decreased in all 14 of the state’s metropolitan areas since the start of 2020, and no industry sector has posted job gains in a majority of those metro areas, according to the IDES.
Since August 2019, the leisure and hospitality industry in Illinois has lost 143,700 jobs, the professional and business services sector lost 72,500, and the trade, transportation and utilities sector lost 53,400 jobs, according to the IDES.
Acting IDES Director Kristin Richards said the unemployment rate in Illinois is steadily declining and confidence in the state’s economy is beginning to grow again, more than six months into the coronavirus pandemic.
Erin Guthrie, director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, urged people to take advantage of the state’s programs to support unemployed workers and business owners amid the pandemic, including its Business Interruption Grants.
The DCEO is expected to award $220 million to businesses that are struggling due to the coronavirus, including $70 million in grants for businesses in areas disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and $60 million for “heavily distressed” businesses, like movie theaters and entertainment venues.
State officials have also earmarked $60 million for “priority businesses” that faced additional coronavirus mitigations implemented by state or local authorities, as well as independently owned retail stores, and tourism- and hospitality-related businesses.
The DCEO is accepting applications for BIG grants through its website.
Guthrie said the state’s programs “will help stabilize our small businesses, enable our economy to continue to safely reopen, return more Illinoisans to work and provide our economy the boost it needs.”
Though the state’s declining unemployment rate is encouraging, “there remains much to do to bring more Illinoisans safely back to work and to rebuild our economy,” Guthrie said.
Job seekers in Illinois can use the state’s Get Hired IL website to find potential opportunities in their area and attend virtual job fairs and training workshops. Those who are looking for a job can also use Illinois Job Link, the state’s largest search engine for employment opportunities.
This article originally appeared on the Highland Park Patch