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Evanston unemployment stabilized the past few months, but remains well below last year levels, prior to the outbreak of the pandemic in late March, 2020.  According to figures released on March 18 by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), 2,767 Evanston residents were unemployed in January, virtually identical to the 2,769 reported in December.  Unemployment is still sharply elevated; January levels are 2.5 times higher than they were one year ago. 

The unemployment rate for Evanston was 7.6% in January, more than double the rate of 2.9% a year ago.

Evanston’s unemployment rate is significantly lower than Cook County, where almost one in ten workers are unemployed, and slightly lower than the Illinois state average of 7.9%.

Unemployment figures had been declining since the peak in June, but virus outbreaks in late fall, coupled with restrictions on businesses, stymied economic recovery and job growth across the U.S., Illinois, Chicago, and Evanston in November and December.

This “official” unemployment rate, U3, is a narrow measure of unemployment. Under U3, people classified as “unemployed” are those willing and able to work and have actively sought employment within the past four weeks. 

U6, a broader measure of unemployment, which includes discouraged and under-employed workers, is much higher but not reported for individual cities.  For the U.S., U6 was 12.0% in January or 520 basis points higher than the official rate of 6.8%.  Assuming the same relationship locally suggests a U6 unemployment rate of 12.8% in Evanston.

Combining the decline in the Evanston Labor force in January versus last year (about 1,590 people) to the U3 number of unemployed residents (2,767) may give a truer picture of the number of people struggling in Evanston: 4,357 residents.

Fewer Evanston residents were unemployed in January than during the peak months of the great recession 10 years ago.  The number of unemployed persons in Evanston rose steadily through June 2009, remained above 3,000 for more than a year, and peaked at 3,590 in July 2010.