CHICAGO (STMW) – The Illinois jobless rate dipped slightly, to 9 percent, in January, the 12th straight monthly decline.

The unemployment rate fell 0.2 percent from the December rate, and is significantly lower than the revised 11.2 percent unemployment rate for January 2010.

The latest number enabled Illinois to match the national unemployment rate, also at 9 percent. The last time the state rate was below 9 percent was February 2009.

“Long-term trends of falling unemployment rates and rising job numbers continue and reflect a strengthening Illinois economy,” said Illinois Department of Employment Security Director Maureen O’Donnell. “As Illinois continues to push through the effects of the national recession, slight up-and-down movement in monthly estimates of unemployment rates and job growth is to be expected.”

Since January, Illinois’ job growth has been led by professional and business services (up 27,400); educational and health services (up 21,400); trade, transportation and utilities (up 15,400); and manufacturing (up 10,900).

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