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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. 

An older son helps out with a part-time job when he can  and Williams has warned her children that, due to the financial strains, Christmas won't come until her income tax refund does.

The loss in income and hours have prompted her to seek other employment.

But, Williams said, "it's hard."

Local unemployment rates for October edged up 2.7 points over the same time last year, according to state reports.

Unemployment in Champaign-Urbana Metropolitan Area – which covers Champaign, Ford and Piatt counties – was about 8.6 percent for October, according to a Nov. 25 release issued by the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

In October 2008, the unemployment rate was about 5.9 percent in the Champaign-Urbana Metropolitan Area.

The unemployment rate identifies those who are out of work and looking for a job regardless if they are eligible for unemployment insurance.

“Although private economists suggest a recovery might be on the horizon, past national recessions show that local economies throughout Illinois will be challenged many months after a recession has been declared complete,” said Maureen O’Donnell, director of the Illinois Department of Employment Security, in a recent press release.

Unemployment in the Bloomington-Normal Metropolitan Statistical Area was an estimated 7.7 percent for October, up from 5.3 percent the previous year.

Danville’s unemployment rate was just over 12 percent for October, up from 8.6 percent last year.

Nationally, unemployment in November dipped down to 10 percent, according a Dec. 4 report by the U.S . Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In the past three months, job losses averaged about 135,000 a month.

Though jobs nationwide continued to be lost in the construction, manufacturing and information industries, the temporary help and health care industries added jobs in November.

About 1,800 non-farm jobs were lost  in the Champaign-Urbana Metropolitan Statistical Area between October 2008 and October 2009.

Danville’s Metropolitan Statistical Area, which covers Vermilion County, lost 800 non-farm jobs within the same time.

Williams said this is the first time she's experienced such financial hardship. Born and raised in Champaign, Williams moved out of state for a few years, returning two years ago to be with her older daughter.

"When I came back I found a job (quickly)," she said.

Now, though Williams is willing to take any position in the hotel business, she has yet to find a job with more hours.

"I thank God I have the kids I have, because I had to tell them there's no Christmas this year because I can't afford it," Williams said. "They understood."

By Pam G. Dempsey

 

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