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Despite drop in unemployment, Chicagoans not feeling the change

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics says unemployment has dropped nationally and in Illinois.

However, many Chicagoans have yet to notice the benefits.

“Jobs are the same now as it was four years ago,” said Janeth Jaimez, 21, a Harold Washington College student. “People used to graduate and get jobs within their careers. It’s not like that anymore; this affects me because I’m about to graduate.”

The national unemployment rate has decreased from 10 percent in 2009 to 7.9 percent in 2012, while in Illinois the unemployment rate has dropped from a high of 10.8 percent in 2009 to 8.8 percent in 2012, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics figures.

“Illinois appears to lag the national trend,” said Ariel Belasen, assistant professor of economics at Southern Illinois University -Edwardsville. “If we assume that continues, it will likely be another 10 months before the state rate falls below 8 percentage rate.”

Holden Wines, 19, a Columbia College student, reflected on whether the job market has improved in Chicago in the past four years during an afternoon cigarette break on a corner in Chinatown.

 “Overall it hasn’t really gotten worse or better. I think if improvement is possible, if it will happen, it will happen soon,” Wines said.

The Illinois Department of Employment Services reported an estimated 4,800 jobs added in October that allowed unemployment in Illinois to remain at 8.8 percent for the two-month unemployment rate. The leading job sectors have been in leisure and hospitality, education and health services sectors, IDES spokesman George Rivera said in a press release.  

 “Job growth and unemployment rate significantly lower than one year ago shows steady economic progress,” IDES Director Jay Rowell said in a statement. “Our eyes now turn toward Congress. Decisions must be made regarding the fiscal cliff so that Illinois’ economic can continue to recover.”

However, John Navin, a professor of economics at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, cautioned that recovery will be slow.

“You’re not going to see unemployment that is going to fall below 7.5 percent nationally for a long time,” Navin said. “It’s a lot of jobs in that half percentage.”

That steady but slow increase could mean that it will be a while before Chicagoans experience an improvement in the employment situation in their daily lives.

Tyrone Randolph, 22, remained optimistic as he stood outside the CTA Blue Line stop at UIC Halsted.

“I mean jobs haven’t really picked up everywhere in the last four years, in some places I’m sure it has, but not really in Chicago,” Randolph said. “But I believe in the next four years it will.”

Four blocks from the UIC Halsted train stop, Bobby Reed walked between cars during a red light with a cardboard sign that read, “will work for pay.”

Reed has been unemployed for the past five years, but has managed to work temp jobs every once in a while.

“It’s been hard for me to find a job, because of the recession and my background,” Reed said. “It’s hard … it’s hard out here for me and a lot of other people.”

He cautiously watched the streetlights, awaiting a red light to change. When it became red, he disappeared between cars to continue looking for help. 

Despite a lengthy recession, many Chicagoans interviewed for this story had a sturdy confidence.

“I think that’s all we have is hope, that’s all,” Jaimez said with an exhausted sigh, shrugging then glancing through the wide windows of the CTA Orange Line train as the elevated tracks overlooked the downtown skyline.

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Despite drop in unemployment, Chicagoans not feeling the change