Illinois unemployment up to 7.3 percent

CHICAGO The employment security department says payroll jobs dropped by 9,700 between June and July of this year. Officials say the number of unemployed people looking for work has increased for three straight months. ABC7's Dan Ponce checked out one job fair Friday that drew over 1,000 people.

Thousands of blue collar jobs have been lost. But the state is also losing a good number of white collar jobs. Accounting firms and law firms have been hit hard. Employers are also cutting back on temp jobs. That means there is fierce competition, even for part-time work.

The line stretched all the way down the street. Most of the job applicants were from the Far South Side and waited in line for hours. They are hoping to land a job at the new Target store opening in Morgan Park in October.

"Between 200 and 240 positions we'll have available for our team members," said Alisa Ulrey, Target district team leader. Ulrey said Target is expecting between 3,000 and 5,000 applicants over next three days.

That means only about one in 20 will be hired. And there's no shortage of qualified applicants.

Mikyael Webb graduated from UNLV in the spring of 2007 with a political science degree and has been trying to find a job ever since.

"It's tough. When I was in Las Vegas, it was a lot easier, I worked at a hotel. I've heard stories about people getting laid off and able to find a job the next week. I had no idea it would be this way in Chicago," said Webb.

Like many workers in the state of Illinois, some of the applicants Friday have recently been laid off, including Larhonda Bardney, who lost her job at a local charter school.

"Due to funding, they laid me off of my job," said Bardney. "So, I came here to apply for a position, kind of in management or the sales floor for Target."

The unemployment rate in Illinois is 7.3 percent, the highest level in almost 15 years. Compare that to July of last year, 5.1 percent. The national unemployment rate is currently 5.7 percent.

"Up until now, Chicago had been relatively immune from some of the difficulties in the economy, but now it's really beginning to hit as both the credit crisis and the oil crisis is beginning to make itself felt on our economy," said John Challenger of the firm Challenge, Gray and Christmas.

Since July of 2007, 10,000 construction jobs have been lost, along with 6,000 financial jobs and 5,500 manufacturing jobs.

Many analysts say the trend will continue.

"I don't think until next summer we're gonna see a turnaround," said Challenger.

Governor Blagojevich released a statement saying he is disappointed in the new unemployment numbers. He says it's now more important than ever for lawmakers to pass his "Illinois Works" plan. That would provide new funding for bridge and road work, school construction and other infrastructure projects.

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