Ill. unemployment rate falls again as factory jobs continue to l - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Ill. unemployment rate falls again as factory jobs continue to leave state

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Illinois' unemployment rate fell to 7.1% in June, and construction and financial services led the way on new hiring.

The bad news, though, is Illinois factory jobs continued to disappear -- another 1,500 lost last month and 11,500 in the last year.

It's a big reason unemployment in Illinois remains above the national average.

FOX 32 News visited a family-owned factory on 159th Street to see why Illinois keeps losing good-paying factory jobs, even though some other sectors of the local economy improve.

Superior Truss & Panel -- with 50 workers and $9.5 million in sales -- will move this fall from Markham to Gary, Indiana. The company is planning to expand to 75 workers.

Owner Bryce Welty, like other manufacturers who've left Illinois, said he'll save about $200,000 a year on property taxes and workers compensation insurance. He grew up in the South Suburbs and compares the move to a divorce.

"It's like any relationship, you know, if you don't get treated the way you think you should feel, you're gonna get out of that relationship," said Welty.

But it's a different story at Sterling Lumber, a south suburban company that rejected Indiana.

"Finances are only part of the issue to move. And that's temporary. Who knows when the political climate will change," said Carter Sterling, CEO of Sterling Lumber.

He praised the Illinois Department of Transportation for helping build a rail spur from his new facility to the CN railroad's main freight line.

The Sterling Family's factory produces planks used by oil and gas drillers, and others, to build roads quickly in areas that are otherwise inaccessible. The family looked at moving to Indiana, where they already had a satellite plant employing 15.

However, they said Hoosier officials kept steering them to sites that didn't work for their company. In the end, Sterling shut down its Indiana plant, moving everyone to South Suburban Phoenix. Illinois gave Sterling an incentive tax credit worth an estimated $1.12 million and helped the company borrow another $10 million through an industrial revenue bond. The company's grown from 170 workers last year to 225 now, with 10 new hires this week.

"We're from Illinois. We want to stay in Illinois. We want to see Illinois prosper," John Sterling said.

The June figure was down from 7.5 percent in May, and while Illinois' unemployment rate remains higher than most other states, it has now fallen almost a full percentage point in the past two months.

The monthly employment report that the department released Thursday pointed out that construction employment increased across the state by 3,500 jobs, but manufacturing jobs in the state continued to decline. Illinois lost a net 1,500 manufacturing jobs in June.

In all, the state added 6,000 jobs for the month.

The federal government said earlier this month that the national unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent in June.

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