With recent reports revealing a mixed bag on employment rates in Illinois, state leaders continue their efforts to improve the economy and prospects for jobs growth in the coming year.
Senate Republicans remain committed to revitalizing Illinois’ business/jobs climate by passing property tax relief, approving workers’ compensation changes that lower hiring costs, and reducing government and business regulations that divert financial resources away from business expansion.
In other action, the Attorney General’s Office is reminding shoppers to review its annual Safe Shopping Guide, and the FBI is warning consumers to be aware of cyber criminals trying to steal money and personal information.
Employment reports mixed
A recent Illinois Department of Employment Security report indicated a slight drop in the state’s unemployment from 5.0% to 4.9%, which represents an increase of 3,400 non-farm payroll jobs. Jobs growth varies according to region, however.
Non-farm jobs increased in eight metro areas from October 2016 to October 2017, with the largest increases in Carbondale-Marion (up 2.1 percent, adding 1,200 jobs), Kankakee (up 2.0 percent, adding 900 jobs), and Lake-Kenosha (up 1.3 percent, adding 5,300). The Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights Metro Division saw the largest jobs growth in raw terms, adding 20,800 new jobs, an increase of 0.6 percent.
However, not all metro areas posted gains. The largest losses are in Danville (down 1 percent, losing 300 jobs), Springfield (down 0.9 percent, losing 1,100), and Champaign (down 0.5 percent, losing 600).
Without Chicago-area gains, the state would have suffered a net loss of 2,600 jobs over the year, instead of adding 18,200 jobs.
Strengthening economic ties with Japan
On November 29, Southern Illinois lawmakers and local officials traveled with Japanese Consul General Naoki Ito to meet with key educational and manufacturing leaders in southern Illinois.
The group toured the Aisin Manufacturing campus in Marion. The company’s footprint has grown from one plant to three since the Japanese firm’s first Illinois groundbreaking in fall 2001. Before the tour, business, government and educational leaders gathered for a working luncheon at Rend Lake College in Ina.
Jonathon Hallberg, executive director of the Jefferson County Development Corp., said Marion and other southern Illinois communities have benefited greatly from the Illinois-Japan connection, which dates back more than 140 years.
Governor Bruce Rauner also traveled with the Consul General, and noted that Japanese companies have driven economic development throughout the state.
Bonds issued to pay down debt
In November, the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget (GOMB) issued bonds totaling $6 billion to be used to pay down the state’s $16 billion bill backlog.
A portion of the money will be combined with federal match funds to pay down a $5.4 billion backlog in Medicaid bills and other interest-accruing vouchers; and $3.98 billion will be used to pay down the Group Health Insurance bill backlog.
GOMB will also close on $750 million in bond sales in December, which are to be used to fund previously appropriated capital improvement projects.
Safe holiday shopping
As the holiday season gets under way, shoppers are encouraged to review the annual Safe Shopping Guide released by the Illinois Attorney General’s office for information about dangerous toys and children’s products that have been recalled throughout the year.
This year’s recalled products include toys, motorized/electric ride-on toys and scooters, clothing, strollers and other baby gear, as well as furniture and household items. The guide also details the reason for the recall and what action should be taken if you find a recalled product in your home.
Call the Attorney General’s Product Recall Hotline at 1-888-414-7678 (TTY: 1-800-964-3013) for more information.
The FBI is also warning consumers to be aware of cyber criminals seeking to steal their money and their personal information. Shoppers should be on the look-out for online shopping scams—criminals often scheme to defraud victims by offering too-good-to-be-true deals, like brand name merchandise at extremely low discounts or gift cards as an incentive to buy a product.
Consumers should also beware of social media scams, including posts on social media sites that offer vouchers or gift cards or that pose as holiday promotions or contests, and should always be careful when downloading mobile applications on your smartphone; some apps, disguised as games and offered for free, may be designed to steal personal information.
Also, those looking to make a little extra money during the holiday season should be wary of websites and online postings offering home work opportunities—they may actually become the victim of an advance fee, counterfeit, or pyramid scheme, or become an unknowing participant in criminal activity.
If you suspect you have been victimized, contact your financial institution immediately, contact law enforcement, and file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.