By JERRY NOWICKI
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD — Illinois’ unemployment rate fell to 15.2 percent in May, according to the state Department of Employment Security, representing a 2 percent drop from the previous month.
Nonfarm payrolls added 62,200 jobs in May based on preliminary data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job losses for April were also revised downward to 738,600 jobs lost, down from 762,200 in previous estimates.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, continued unemployment claims for the previous week fell to 709,244, down from 741,738 the week ending June 6. Illinois saw 44,639 new initial claims for the week ending June 13, which was roughly level from the week before.
The state’s unemployment rate was 1.9 percentage points higher than the national unemployment rate reported for May, which was 13.3 percent, according to IDES.
The staggering numbers are 11.1 percentage points higher than they were a year ago as the state and nation continue to grapple with economic shutdowns related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The news comes as Gov. JB Pritzker assured the public that all four of the state’s medical regions are on pace to move into Phase 4 of his Restore Illinois reopening plan on June 26. In that phase, restaurants and bars could open for indoor dining at fractional capacity as long as they follow state guidelines, and gatherings up to 50 people would be allowed. PreK-12 schools, higher education and all summer programs could also open with IDPH approved safety guidance, as could fitness clubs.
While Republicans and business groups have urged an expedited approach to reopening, the Pritzker administration has continued to stick by the original reopening plan timeline with some amendments, such as allowing outdoor seating at restaurants.
“As we continue to grapple with the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we remain committed to safely reopening the state to begin economic recovery,” Deputy Gov. Dan Hynes said in a news release.
Nonfarm payroll employment decreased by 737,900 jobs from a year ago, with the largest jobs decreases in the leisure and hospitality field, which lost 285,200 jobs. Trade, transportation and utilities lost 102,100 jobs, and professional and business services lost 96,100 jobs.
Raises for nurses
Meanwhile, the Illinois Nurses Association announced in a news release last week that it reached an agreement with the state on a series of COVID-19 related compensation and safety measures — including a 12 percent hazard pay bump — for registered nurses at state mental health facilities, correctional centers, Illinois Youth Centers, veterans administration homes, the Department of Healthcare and Family Services and Department of Public Health.
The 12-percent pay increase will apply to an employee’s base salary for days worked between April 16 and June 30 for nurses not covered under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
Nurses who worked from May 1 to May 31 without taking a day off will also be granted an additional personal business day.
Pritzker also signed into law Senate Bill 1569, which allows school districts to use remote learning during a declared public health emergency and count them as attendance days. It also allows for five remote learning planning days to be considered attendance days.
The new law takes effect immediately and also waives student assessment requirements if the Illinois State Board of Education receives such a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education.
State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen Ayala said ISBE will be releasing guidance in the coming days to “support a safe transition back to in-person learning this fall.”
“We emphasize in-person learning for all students to the greatest extent possible, while realizing that may not be feasible in all situations,” she said in a news release.
The new law also provides a year-long licensure extension for those with teaching and education support professional licenses set to expire on June 30.
(Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.)