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Unemployment plunges in Indiana, holds steady in Illinois
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Unemployment plunges in Indiana, holds steady in Illinois

Indiana's unemployment rate fell dramatically by 0.4 percent in April as the Hoosier state added more than twice as many jobs as normal, while joblessness in Illinois held steady.

The jobless rate in Indiana declined to 5.4 percent in April after private-sector employment grew by 10,600, more than double the average of 4,000 jobs the state had gained every month over the last two years. The unemployment in Illinois stayed steady at 6 percent even though the state picked up 4,800 more jobs, mainly in the professional and business services sector.

Illinois trailed the national unemployment rate of 5.4 percent, which Indiana kept pace with in April. Both manufacturing-dependent states — which are quick to shed jobs during downturns and slow to gain them back — lag behind their Midwestern peers. Illinois has the highest jobless rate in the region, and Indiana is tied with Michigan for third highest.

In April, Indiana added 6,400 jobs in trade transportation and utilities, 2,500 in professional and business services, and 2,400 in construction.

"Indiana's sizable gains in the construction sector in April are definitely a positive indicator of economic growth as we move into the summer months," Indiana Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Steven Braun said. "Additionally, continuing claims for unemployment insurance remain at their lowest levels in 15 years, which has also been a solidly increasing trend over the past couple years, signifying Hoosiers are returning to work at a substantial rate."

The Hoosier state is about 7,800 private sector jobs short of its all-time high in employment during March 2000, when a tech bubble supercharged the national economy. Indiana hasn't been able to match the peak of 2.61 million private sector jobs since then even though the state's population has grown by nearly 600,000 people — think a city the size of Las Vegas or Milwaukee — in the subsequent 15 years.

"With more than 112,000 jobs added since January 2013, Indiana continues to see positive growth in the private sector," Indiana Secretary of Commerce Victor Smith said.

Cross the state line, and the recovery from the Great Recession has been much slower, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security. Illinois has gained 5,200 jobs per month over the last eight years, and is not on pace to reach pre-recession employment levels until next summer.

"At the current sluggish pace of our economic recovery, Illinois won't see a return to its pre-recession peak employment level for another year or more," IDES Director Jeff Mays said. "This is concerning, given that more than half of the country, including most of our neighboring states, have already regained their pre-recession levels."

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.

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