ST. LOUIS — Illinois' unemployment fell in August to 6.7 percent, the sixth straight monthly decrease in the state's jobless rate, the Illinois Department of Employment Security said Thursday.
The latest figure, down one-tenth of a percentage point from July, represents a drop from 9.2 percent one year ago and marks the largest year-over-year decline since 1984, the department said. The last time the rate was lower than 6.7 was in July 2008, when it was 6.6 percent.
There are 40,600 more jobs than one year ago, according to Thursday's announcement, though the meaning of that was open to interpretation by Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and his Republican challenger, Bruce Rauner.
Using his visit Thursday to a global Chicago pump-rebuilding company as a backdrop, Quinn heralded August's employment showing as "proof that Illinois' comeback continues."
"More people are working today than at any time in the past six years, and that is thanks in part to companies like Hydro who are staking their future right here in the Land of Lincoln," Quinn said, noting that Hydro — with more than 430 employees worldwide — has grown its workforce by 15 percent during the past year.
"While we have more work to do, we are getting the job done, and Illinois is headed in the right direction," said Quinn, seeking a second full term.
Rauner, while acknowledging that "it's always good news when more Illinoisans are working," countered Quinn's enthusiasm, insisting "we still have a huge ways to go to get out of the massive hole" he blamed on Quinn, Quinn predecessor and now-imprisoned Rod Blagojevich, and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
"We need to put our economy on jet fuel, and under Pat Quinn it's struggling along on leaded gas," Rauner, a wealthy venture capitalist, said in a statement.
Despite their months of retreating, Illinois' unemployment numbers remained stubbornly higher than the nationwide rate, which has fallen to 6.1 percent in August from 6.2 percent the previous month — only because some of those out of work gave up looking. The government doesn't count people as unemployed unless they are actively searching for a job.
U.S. employers added just 142,000 jobs last month, according to the Labor Department, down from 212,000 in July. That followed a six-month streak of monthly job gains in excess of 200,000. The leisure and hospitality sector led the way in Illinois last month, adding some 5,000 jobs statewide. Roughly 4,300 jobs were added in the trade, transportation and utilities arena, along with 3,300 in professional and business services.