Apr 18, 2023 - Business

Chicago has one of the highest employment rates in the U.S.

Data: BLS; Note: Rate is seasonally adjusted. Chart: Axios Visuals 

Chicago's unemployment rate fell by 0.2 percentage points in February to 4.4%, per a new analysis of Labor Department data.

Yes, but: We have one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.

Why it matters: Though unemployment is down nationally, some cities, like Chicago, are struggling with it more than others.

  • It signals the region's sluggish recovery from the pandemic, which led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of local jobs over a six-month period.

By the numbers: Nationally, the unemployment rate was 3.5% as of March — down 0.1 percentage point from the previous month, and down 0.1 percentage point year over year.

  • As of February — the latest month for which city-level data is available — unemployment remained above 4% in a handful of large cities besides Chicago, including in Las Vegas (5.7%), Los Angeles (4.3%) and Houston (4.3%).
  • In a handful of other major metro areas, including Miami, Minneapolis and Tampa, unemployment dropped below 3%.

Between the lines: Though Chicago's unemployment rate checks in higher than the national average and that of most other cities, the city is improving. The rate has dropped slightly from February 2022.

  • Overall, city-level unemployment figures tend to closely track the national trend, with minor deviations driven by local economic situations.

The big picture: Illinois is still short nearly 40,000 jobs that existed before the start of the pandemic three years ago, according to data released last month by the state Department of Employment Security.

  • The Fed is keeping a close eye on employment levels as a measure of the economy's overall temperature.

What we're watching: Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson in his recent economic plan said the city needs "to do better to train Chicagoans to fill the jobs that exist today."

  • "Modern manufacturing jobs require tech skills, and it is our job to give our students the skills necessary to succeed."

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