By Dana Kozlov

CHICAGO (CBS) — CBS 2 is Working for Chicago closely watching trends in the economy, which appear to be getting back on track.

But taking a close look, the weekly unemployment claims in Illinois, there were more than 19,000 filed just last week.

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That’s the highest number of claims since the beginning of April.

CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reports, the numbers look bad, but people shouldn’t panic.

The state is opening up. Masks for the vaccinated no longer required in many places. You’d think that would translate to a downward unemployment trend in Illinois.

Not so.

Last week’s unemployment claims are up by almost 2,000 from the week prior.

“There are gonna be spikes some weeks where layoffs may have picked up in certain cases.”

Andy Challenger, Senior Vice President of the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas, said the overall jobs picture is what’s important, pointing out unemployment will fluctuate.

Even if the economy is showing signs of improvement.

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Take Illinois. Charting the last six weeks of unemployment claims, it looks like a rollercoaster.

“It moves up and down, in a pretty volatile way each week, particularly when you’re just looking at an individual state,” Challenger said. “So it’s nothing to be particularly alarmed about. It would be alarming if we see an overall trend of layoffs starting to rise again. In this case, we haven’t see that for the most part.”

Illinois officials are painting an even rosier picture, sending out a news release: unemployment down, jobs up compared to last April.

Back then, of course, was smack in the middle of the state’s  pandemic shutdown. And there’s a flipside to this coin.

Some businesses, like restaurants, are struggling to get workers back. Twenty-three mostly Republican-led states are ending federal stimulus benefits early to help fill empty jobs.

“It’s really hard in the data to divide if they’re staying home because of the stimulus or they’re staying home over fear of the coronavirus,” Challenger said. “Overall, pretty valuable to stay positive about the labor market. Things are very rapidly improving.”

A spokesperson for  the state’s unemployment office said Illinois has no plans to cut those federal, supplemental benefits off early, calling them a critical help to those who qualify.

But there’s still no word from Governor JB Pritzker on when IDES offices will reopen.

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