CHICAGO (STMW) – Illinois’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell for the 13th consecutive month in February, dropping -0.1 to 8.9 percent, according to preliminary data released Friday by the Illinois Department of Employment Security. The last time the state rate was below 9.0 percent was two years ago in February 2009, according to a release from IDES.

The national February rate also fell -0.1 to 8.9 percent.

“The Illinois economy is steadily building momentum. Our state has recorded 13 consecutive months of falling unemployment rates after nearly two years of increases,” IDES Director Maureen O’Donnell said. “Although up-and-down movement in the rate still is possible, the trend shows the Illinois economy is improving and moving in the right direction.”

The seasonally adjusted payroll employment estimate for February increased by 17,600. The three-month moving average of payroll employment gain of 12,200 net jobs for February is more indicative of the current job market. Below-trend seasonal hiring during the fourth quarter of 2010 produced overstated estimates of job loss in November and December, the release said.

Since January 2010 when Illinois employment resumed after the national recession, Illinois has added 85,100 net new jobs. Leading sectors are Professional and Business Services (36,100); Educational and Health Services (26,700); Trade, Transportation and Utilities (17,600); and Manufacturing (9,800). That represents a 1.5 percent job growth, compared to the nation’s 1.0 percent. When considering all workers, including independent contractors and the self-employed, Illinois has added 147,600 positions since January 2010, according to the release.

In February, the number of unemployed individuals fell for the 13th consecutive month, dropping 10,700 (-1.8 percent) to 588,500, the lowest level since February 2009. Total unemployed has declined by151,600 (-25.8 percent) since January 2010 when the state unemployment rate peaked at 11.2 percent. The unemployment rate identifies those who are out of work and seeking employment. A person who exhausts benefits, or is ineligible, still will be reflected in the unemployment rate if they actively seek work.

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