Pols, residents react to drop in unemployment rate

February 3, 2012 3:35:09 PM PST
The nation's unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level in nearly three years. It is now at 8.3 percent.

U.S. companies added 243,000 jobs in January.

Whether or not the good news continues, and to what extent, could be the defining story of this year's presidential campaign. The Labor Department report appears to suggest an economic recovery is under way.

With fewer than three dozen people working at her Evergreen Electrical Supply Company on Chicago's South Side, owner Colleen Kramer is back in hiring mode.

"We have proposed to hire five people in the next six months," said Kramer. "We see an increase and an uptick in opportunities in new construction."

For the region's small business administration director, Kramer's plan is confirmation: The great recession is finally losing its grip.

"Coming out of every recession and every recovery, which we're in, we see small businesses driving that," said Marianne Markowitz, SBA Midwest Region.

The Labor Department said the national economy added 257,000 jobs in January as the unemployment rate dropped from 8.5 to 8.3 percent.

"The trend line is what's really encouraging," said Senator Dick Durbin, (D) Illinois. "Five straight months of this job creation. It's been a long, long time since we've had that."

In Virginia Friday, President Barack Obama was encouraged, but he said there were still too many Americans who need a job.

"The economy is growing stronger. The recovery is speeding up," Obama said.

Noting the unemployment rate remained above 8 percent, the job numbers did not impress Illinois 14th District Congressman Randy Hultgren.

"It's clear Obama's policies just aren't doing what our economy needs," said Hultgren.

"The administration's putting their political agenda ahead of American jobs," said the 6th District's Peter Roskam.

Small businesswoman Kramer said negative talk about the economy does not help it.

"What we hear, day in and day out, if it's doom and gloom, it's gonna be doom and gloom," said Kramer.

Meanwhile, in west suburban Melrose Park, the Avlon company, which won a Commerce Department award for its export business, is still waiting for signs of recovery. The company manufactures and markets black hair care products and its owner does not expect his business to recover until the 16 percent unemployment rate among African-Americans is lowered.

"Jobs are the issue. If the jobs are there in that community, then our business bounces back, right back," said Avlon Industries' Dr. Ali Syed.

Despite the positive jobs report and lower unemployment rate, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said in Nevada Friday that President Obama's policies had made the economy worse.

The president is hedging his bets on the economy. He warned Americans the numbers could go up or down in subsequent monthly reports.