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Unlevel foundation: Disappointing gamble

Every Saturday, for 20 weeks, 46 men and women reported to the Physical Plant Service Building on the University of Illinois campus at 7:30 a.m. and worked until 3:30 p.m.

Dusty Rhodes/ A man stares up at a construction site. Local state-funded programs aimed to increase minorities in construction trade unions have had limited success

Unlevel foundation: A history of obstacles

CHAMPAGIN -- The construction industry’s history of racial segregation in Central Illinois isn’t a legend or an excuse; among workers themselves, it’s a well-known fact.

Dusty Rhodes/ Historically, the construction industy has excluded minority workers. Across some local unions, little has changed today.

Unlevel foundation: New law, big impact

CHAMPAIGN -- Illinois’ legislative effort to level the playing field for minority- and female-owned businesses comes down to a single sentence, and a simple one at that: “Those who submit bids or proposals for State contracts shall not be given a period after the bid or proposal is submitted to cure deficiencies . . . . ”

Dusty Rhodes/ A construction site at the University of Illinois. A new state law aims to increase the use of minority-and-female-owned businesses.

Unlevel foundation: Labor ready

All it takes is a hard hat, some work boots and a GED. So why aren't more minorities employed in the construction industry?

Dusty Rhodes/Ajaye Meeks, a 35-year-old electrician living in Camargo, has twice been tested and interviewed for an apprenticeship with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Congress extends unemployment benefit help

CHAMPAIGN – â€œI want a job,” Sara Goble’s resume reads. 

“I am a hard worker and I am tired of being unemployed. I have welded and worked in a factory half of my life so it would not be quite new to me. I can pass (a) drug test . . .”

Goble, a single mother of two, had collected unemployment for more than 60 weeks as of March 26.  Across the state, the unemployment rate continues to top 11 percent.

The high jobless rate has nearly depleted the state’s unemployment trust fund.

Pam G. Dempsey/Sara Goble, 35, in her Hoopeston home in February. Goble is one of the 660,000 state residents who filed for unemployment for the first time in 2009. Since last summer, the state has been forced to borrow $2.2 billion from the federal government to pay unemployment benefits.

Unemployment rate leveling off in some counties

CHAMPAIGN -- The unemployment rate, on the rise for much of this year, finally seems to be leveling off in many – but not all – counties of East Central Illilnois.

Champaign, Vermilion and five other counties in East Central Illinois saw very little change in the unemployment rate in November.

But the rate has continued to march upward in Douglas, Edgar and Iroquois counties, all predominantly rural.

– In Douglas County, the unemployment rate rose from 9.3 percent in October to 9.6 percent in November, the highest figure so far this year. It was the seventh consecutive monthly increase.

Illinois Department of Employment Security

Graphic: Unemployment rates, November 2009


Illinois Department of Employment Security

As unemployment rises, officials forecast slow recovery

CHAMPAIGN -- Carol Williams has worked in the hotel business for more than 10 years.

Until October,  the 38-year-old single mother of four worked between 32 and 40 hours a week as a night auditor for two years.

Her overnight shift allowed her to be at home for her younger children - ages 13 and 7 - after school, She was able to help them with their homework,  make dinner and put them to sleep before leaving for work.

But an illness and subsequent hospitalization prevented her from working for nearly a month. When she was able to go back to work, she found her hours were given to someone else.

Williams now works 12 hours a week between 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. 

Pam G. Dempsey / Carol Williams, 38, poses Friday, Dec. 11, 2009, in front of Champaign Consortium, 1307 N. Mattis Ave., Champaign. Williams began looking for full-time work after her work week was reduced from 32 hours to 12 hours. October's unemployment rates have increased over two points from the same time last year.

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