Evanston unemployment steadily decreases

Amanda Gilbert, Reporter

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Evanston’s unemployment rate continues to fall, reaching its lowest level since May.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Evanston’s unemployment rate was 6.4 percent at the end of September. A year ago, the city’s jobless rate was 7.7 percent. This small but steady decrease in the unemployment rate is congruent with changes in the Evanston labor force, which grew in September from 41,496 in August to 41,846.

While the number of people employed grew, the number of people looking for work went down by 242 because of various reasons including disillusionment with the employment market.

Steve Griffin, the city’s director of community and economic development, said one of the main reasons for a drop in unemployment is the increasing development activity throughout Evanston. Griffin said construction only started to pick up in recent years.

Last year, for instance, a city development committee was able to acquire financing for new apartment units, Griffin said. He added that there are about 500 apartment units under construction, which he said will lead to revitalized retail activity.

The city’s two new grocery stores are expected to become a large source of new jobs and revenue in the city. The recently opened Gordon Food Service Marketplace is adding about $100,000 of new revenue to the city each year. The Trader Joe’s opening up next year is estimated to generate $550,000 in revenue, he added.

“I think we’re all proud to see this development activity pick up the way it is,” Griffin said. “Especially with the addition of the two stores.”

Griffin said the city has focused on making sure the right kinds of development are located in the right places. He said Evanston is adding apartments to areas that allow parking for renters and infrastructure to areas that have Chicago Transit Authority or Metra stations, to facilitate greater transportation accessibility.

Griffin said the development committee will soon focus on creating new office buildings, specifically for technology-based businesses.

According to the city’s economic development plan, Evanston wants to capitalize on the city’s reputation as a center for innovation. The city will develop modern office and laboratory space in order to attract new technology companies and improve Evanston’s ability to retain expanding firms.

Evanston’s unemployment rate is lower than that of the state, which still hovers above 8 percent. According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, the state’s unemployment rate dropped from 9.1 to 8.8 percent in September.

In the Chicago metropolitan area, Wilmette has the lowest unemployment rate of 5.1 percent. However, only eight towns in Illinois with more than 25,000 residents have lower jobless rates than Evanston, including Glenview, Highland Park and Northbrook.

The national unemployment rate of 7.8 percent is closer to Evanston’s jobless rate.