- Associated Press - Thursday, May 15, 2014

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - Unemployment in Illinois dropped in April to its lowest level since 2008, falling to 7.9 percent, the state Department of Employment Security said Thursday.

The April jobless rate was down from 8.4 percent in March and the lowest rate the state has seen since December 2008.

The U.S. Department of Labor said earlier this month that national unemployment fell in April to 6.3 percent. Illinois had the third highest unemployment rate in the nation in March behind only Rhode Island and Nevada. Illinois has been struggling to rebound from the prolonged effects of the economic downturn and a slump in one of the state’s economic mainstays, manufacturing.

Department Director Jay Rowell called the sharp drop in the unemployment rate a sign that the lagging economy is finding its footing.

“As Illinois’ economy continues to gain momentum, April’s numbers reflect more people getting back to work and more employers adapting to the new national economy,” Rowell said.

Even with the decrease, the number of jobs in the state last month was still down to 5.81 million, a drop of less than 1 percent. The department said the jobs figure comes from a different survey than the unemployment rate so the two can move independently.

The total number of unemployed people still looking for work fell 6.5 percent in April, a drop of 35,700 people to 516,000.

Looking at employment sectors, trade, transportation and utilities companies added 6,900 jobs in April, a jump of just under 1 percent. Government employers were also hiring, adding 1,000 jobs (an increase of a fraction of 1 percent).

Manufacturing continued to struggle in the state. Firms in that sector cut a net 3,500 jobs, a decrease of .6 percent.

Professional and business services companies also cut jobs, a net 7,100 in all in April. That was a decrease of .8 percent.

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