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Institute of Government and Public Affairs, U of I

A monthly snapshot of the state’s economy shows growth in December was the slowest it has been since spring of 2013.

Fred Giertz, who compiles the index for the University of Illinois’s Institute of Government and Public Affairs, says it’s possible the state budget impasse contributed to the economic slowdown. He says it probably hasn’t played that big of a role so far, because the state is collecting less in taxes, leaving more money in consumer’s pockets, while at the same time not cutting back on spending.

Illinois Department of Employment Security / AP/WNIJ News

Unemployment dropped in most of Illinois' metro areas in November but most areas also lost jobs over the past year.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security said Wednesday in its monthly metro-area report that the jobless rate dropped in 12 metro areas last month, stayed the same in one and dropped in one.

The lowest rate was 5.2 percent in Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights. The highest was 7.7 percent in Danville.

Senate.gov

Consumers may like the ability to shop online and avoid paying state and local sales taxes, and many online retailers may like the competitive advantage the arrangement provides them over “bricks and mortar” businesses across the country; but U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. says the situation has a significant price.

“It’s really not fair to say to that store down the block that’s paying rent and paying property taxes and collecting sales tax [that] we’re going to put them at a disadvantage to their Internet counterparts,” Durbin said.

Good News On Illinois Job Front

Dec 14, 2015
ADP Research Institute

Non-farm jobs increased in Illinois during November.

Illinois added 6,200 private-sector non-farm jobs during November, according to the ADP Regional Employment Report. That’s more than any of the other five Midwest states.

Wisconsin added only 2,540 jobs last month.

The bad news is that the November Illinois growth is 580 jobs lower than the six-month average … but Wisconsin’s number dropped 1,140 jobs below that rolling average.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

A massive project at the Chicago-Rockford International Airport is back on track, thanks to a collaboration by five local banks. 

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

As we enter the holiday season, many workers are thinking about the extra days off. 

The State Chamber of Commerce keeps tabs on paid holidays by employers across the state. The average number of paid holidays in Illinois comes in at nearly nine days a year with an average of nearly three personal paid days thrown in.

Looking ahead to the next year, nearly 98 percent of employers will give paid holidays for New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day … along with Thanksgiving.

Artwork provided

The multi-purpose indoor athletic facility under construction in downtown Rockford got a financial boost and a new name Thursday, thanks to UW Health.

What originally was called the Downtown Sportscore now will be known as the UW Health Sports Factory.

The parent company of Rockford’s SwedishAmerican Health System will pay roughly $1.9 million over a 10-year period to have its name and logo emblazoned on the building and various associated materials.

Clean-Up For Canadian Pacific Train Derailment Continues

Nov 9, 2015

Contractors for Canadian Pacific Railway are working to clear more than a dozen derailed train cars in southern Wisconsin after hundreds of gallons of crude oil spilled from one tanker.

Watertown fire chief Gregory Michalek said Monday that residents who evacuated dozens of homes following the spill a day earlier cannot yet return home as cleanup continues.

Thirteen of 110 cars derailed in Watertown Sunday afternoon. It’s the second derailment in Wisconsin in two days.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

America needs more aircraft mechanics and avionics technicians. Rockford is now home to one of the nation’s only registered apprenticeship programs aimed at filling that need. The U.S. Department of Labor and Rockford aircraft maintenance company Emery Air signed an agreement Wednesday to create a training pipeline for the career that’s in heavy demand.

University of Illinois

The Illinois economy continues to grow … but at a slower rate than a few months ago. That’s according to a monthly economic report from the University of Illinois.

The U of I Flash Index fell to 105.8 in October from 106 in September. Though any number over 100 indicates growth in the state's economy, this is the third month of decline for the index.

The report's author Fred Giertz says the slower growth is a reflection of a bigger global trend -- including slowdowns in Europe and China.

Mercy Rockford Health System

OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center could be forced to cut the equivalent of 200 full-time jobs if the Rockford Health System Riverside Campus is built on the east side.

That is one of several objections raised about the project in a letter from St. Anthony CEO and President Paula Carynski filed last week with the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board.

WNIJ’s Gas Price Monday: Oct. 26, 2015

Oct 26, 2015
Carl Nelson/WNIJ

Gas prices in Illinois fell a little from last week ... but only about a dime.

According to AAA, gallon of regular gas in the Rockford area costs $2.31 on average. That’s 7 cents less than a week ago and about 70 cents less than a year ago.

Chicago prices are at $2.80 per gallon. That's about a dime less than a week ago and about 75 cents less than a year ago.

Wikimedia

A bigger portion of older people's income could be going to healthcare costs next year.

This change is based on something seemingly unrelated: Low gas prices.

Each year, the federal government releases what's called a "consumer price index," that lays out the amount of inflation observed in the U.S. economy.

Social Security and other government beneficiaries will receive a cost of living increase tied to inflation. But economists this year predict there will be no cost of living adjustment, known as a COLA, because gas prices have been so low.

ConAgra Foods

Governor Bruce Rauner says Illinois will see a net gain of jobs from a  Fortune 500 company that just received state tax breaks. 

ConAgra already employees Illinois workers, but it's transferring them from Naperville to Chicago. That’s part of a larger move to the city from its headquarters in Omaha.

United Auto Workers members have resoundingly rejected a four-year contract with Fiat Chrysler. Workers at the plant in Belvidere were among the last in the nation to vote on the deal union leaders had worked out with the automaker: like most Fiat Chrysler plants nation-wide, they overwhelmingly vote "no."

65% of the Belvidere plant's 3000 UAW members voted against the proposal. It's considered a rebuke of their union leaders who supported the deal.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Votes this week will decide the fate of a four-year contract proposal for Fiat Chrysler employees nationwide. Today, union workers in Belvidere’s plant will cast their ballots.

Belvidere is one of the big Fiat Chrysler plants UAW leaders hope will approve the national contract the union hammered out with the automaker. So far this week, workers at a number of factories have rejected the deal. A truck plant in Warren, Michigan approved it.

Guy Stephens / WNIJ

Local governments work with a wide array of agencies and partnerships for projects within their jurisdictions.  Another organization aims to cross local boundaries for the good of all.

Motorola Moving Schaumburg Headquarters ... But Not Far

Sep 15, 2015

Motorola Solutions is now the latest company to move its headquarters from the suburbs to downtown Chicago. The communications company will leave some employees back in Schaumburg - but by next summer, its global headquarters and around 800 workers will call 500 West Monroe Street the home office. 

   

Dollar General Chooses Janesville For Distribution Center

Sep 11, 2015
city of Janesville

Janesville is projected to get hundreds of warehouse jobs in the next several years.

According to a news release, Dollar General has negotiated an agreement with officials to open a new distribution center in the city.

A financing package still needs approval by the Janesville City Council.

Dollar General wants to employ over 550 full-time workers over the next few years.

The company selected Wisconsin after eyeing two other Midwest locations.

Jenna Dooley / WNIJ

Many northern Illinois drivers are kicking themselves today for not gassing up earlier this week. Gas prices throughout the Midwest have skyrocketed over the past two days. 

Carl Nelson/WNIJ

Gas prices continue to drop all around the state. In Rockford, the cost of a gallon of regular fell more than a nickel since last week, to $2.50.

The state average is $2.60 a gallon. That’s down about 3 and a half cents from last week and 95 cents cheaper than it was a year ago. Drivers are spending 30 cents less per gallon than they were just a month ago.

The biggest health system in the DeKalb area is joining Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. That’s if a plan wins approval by state regulators.

KishHealth System and Northwestern Memorial Health Care announced they’ve agreed to join together. Their boards issued a joint statement about the proposed merger Wednesday. This means Northwestern Medicine would expand to include a total of six hospitals and 90 locations in northern Illinois.

Flickr user 401(K) 2012 / "Money" (CC v. 2.0)

Minnesota will surpass Illinois, Michigan and South Dakota this week with the highest minimum wage in the Midwest.

The $9-per-hour wage taking effect Saturday is the second of a three-stage increase adopted last year. Next year, the wage will rise fifty cents and go up automatically with inflation in following years.

For now, this step gives The Gopher State the highest minimum wage of any state away from both coasts. The next closest wage in the region is South Dakota's $8.50 per hour, which is higher than Illinois's at $8.25.

IDES

The Illinois Department of Employment Security says May was the fifteenth month in a row that unemployment rates fell in every metro area in the state compared to a year ago.  Rates also fell in all of Illinois’s 102 counties. 

Department Director Jeff Mays noted that three metro areas in northeastern Illinois, including the Elgin area at 4.8 percent, Lake-Kenosha and Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights metro areas, had returned to pre-recession unemployment rates.

Jennifer Brdlik / Elevated Care

Patients, growers, and business owners are waiting while Illinois continues the process of setting up its medical cannabis program. One northern Illinois native is in all three of those roles in Arizona, where medical marijuana has been legal for five years. 

Jennifer Brdlik is operations director for “Elevated Care” and “Aromatic Kitchens,” companies that produce cannabis-based foods and tinctures. She spoke with WNIJ’s Susan Stephens about why she got into the business and where she thinks it’s headed in Illinois.

YouTube

The poisoning death of a Highland Park couple draws more attention to the potential dangers of keyless auto ignitions.

Pasquale and Rina Fontanini were found dead last week. Their son, who is a local fire department lieutenant, says lethal levels of carbon monoxide were in the home after the couple left their car with a keyless ignition running in the garage.

Safety advocates say up to a dozen deaths nationwide occur because of such scenarios and want immediate action.

A dispute between airline Allegiant Air and its airport hub in the Phoenix, Arizona metro area should have no impact on its service to the Chicago Rockford International Airport.  That’s according to a spokeswoman for the airline.

MIT

An upswing in the Rockford metropolitan area’s economy over the last several years is reflected favorably in a recent report.  Rockford ranked eighth among the 150 largest metro areas in the country for the highest percentage of new jobs in occupations that pay a living wage.

New Power Plant Rules May Force Rate Hikes

May 25, 2015
KWMU

Proposed rules to lower carbon emissions by electricity-generating power plants will force unnecessary rate increases.

That's according to U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. 

Barring additional delays, the new rules will now be out in August. They require new and existing power plants that burn coal and other fossil fuels to reduce emissions to levels 30-percent below those in 2005 over the next 15 years.

$10 Billion Smoking Case Reheard By State Supreme Court

May 20, 2015

A $10 billion dollar lawsuit was back before the Illinois Supreme Court yesterday.

A group of smokers say Philip Morris defrauded them into thinking light cigarettes were safer than regular. Back in 2003, a court ruled "yes" and granted smokers a monster $10 billion judgment,  but they lost the case a decade ago when the state’s sharply divided highest court overturned the verdict in 2005.

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