Knox and neighboring counties suffer employment setback in January

Looking at Illinois unemployment data for the month of January, the picture doesn’t look too bad.

According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, Illinois saw a slight increase in the unemployment rate with similar growth in the labor force, which likely indicates workers coming back into the labor force as more jobs become available.

But a closer look shows that good news is largely contained to the Northeastern Illinois portion of the state around Chicago.

Out of Illinois 10 economic development regions, Northeast is the only region with lower unemployment year over year for January.

Counties in our region like Knox, Warren, McDonough and Fulton Counties have seen the unwelcome indicators of shrinking labor with growing unemployment in the same period.

Knox County’s unemployment rate reached a 2-year high in January while the labor force shrunk for a fourth consecutive month.

The number of people abandoning the county’s labor force was evenly spread between Galesburg and the rest of Knox.

Warren County specifically saw unemployment reach a two year high while the labor force reaches it’s lowest point in nearly three years.

It’s been typical in recent years for Knox and Warren Counties to have unemployment fall back down in February, although that may be not a foregone conclusion after the economy bounces back from the December bear market.

Warren’s labor force reached a 40-month low, and this comes after months of less ideal economic news in the Maple City with the closing of Barnstormer, Alexander Lumber and Shopko.

Henry and Henderson County saw only modest increases to their labor forces with big rises in unemployment over the last year.

Once again most of the growth in workers and jobs seems to be concentrated in the Northeastern portion of the state.