MORRIS – Grundy County may not have the lowest unemployment rate in the state, but it ranked first among all Illinois counties for showing the largest decrease in joblessness compared to last year.
Just more than 8 percent of Grundy’s workforce was unemployed as of April, down from April 2013 when Grundy faced an 11.6 percent unemployment rate, according to new data from the Illinois Department of Labor.
With a 3.4 percent decrease over the year, Grundy significantly outpaced the remaining 101 Illinois counties in employing workers. The next in line was Putnam County, with a 2.8 percent decrease in joblessness.
While the unemployment rate is only one indicator for economic health, it does reflect recent job creation in the community.
“A lot of our construction workers are back to work after a really long and brutal winter, which I think certainly helps,” said Nancy Norton Ammer, CEO for the Grundy Economic Development Council.
Ammer attributed the industrial corridor along Route 6 – which includes major companies such as Aux Sable Liquid Products and LyondellBasell – for hiring some additional employees in the last year.
“We’ve also had some new businesses and companies come to the community which could be a factor,” Ammer said.
One such company was Trader Joe’s, which has already brought several jobs to the area and is anticipated to eventually employ 500 people, according to information from the GEDC.
While the decrease in joblessness bodes well for the county, Grundy has some catching up to do before it is on par with other counties. As of April, the unemployment rate in Grundy County was 8.2 percent. The state’s rate was 7.2 percent, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security.
Grundy County Board Chairman Ron Severson said he was glad to see the drop, but questioned the authenticity of the new data.
“It was a nice drop, but you have to wonder if that’s totally accurate,” Severson said. “Part of that drop could be because people without jobs stopped qualifying for unemployment or quit looking for work.”
Last year, Grundy County had the highest unemployment rate in the state, and even with this year’s drop, it remains among the 20 counties with the highest jobless rates, according to the state’s labor department.
Help may be on the way, though, as the county is slated to see the result of several industrial investments.
Those investments include the Inland Logistics Park scheduled for construction in Coal City, an expansion to the Utility Concrete Products facility in Channahon and the addition of NFI Industries to Minooka’s Prologis Park. Those three investments are slated to bring more than 300 jobs to the area, according to GEDC data.
Severson touted Grundy’s industrial and agricultural base for providing several jobs to the community.
“We are an industrial and agricultural county, so it hit us hard when the building trades sector started going down,” he said. “But I think this shows that some of those trade jobs are coming back to the area, which is good news.”