Gov. Pat Quinn held a news conference Thursday at a Back of the Yards business to announce another drop in the Illinois unemployment rate.

The rate dipped to 6.8 percent in July — the lowest level since August 2008.

In July 2013, the rate was 9.2 percent, and that 2.4-percentage-point drop is the steepest one-year decline in 30 years.

Quinn held his news conference at Wheatland Tube, the largest tube and conduit manufacturer in North America.

The state Department of Employment Security says the drop in the overall rate was the fifth straight monthly decrease in the state’s jobless rate. The last time the rate was lower than 6.8 was in August 2008 when it was 6.7. There are 35,600 more jobs than one year ago.

 

 

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The monthly employment report that the department released Thursday shows 11,200 private sector jobs were created statewide; 3,900 of those were manufacturing jobs, Quinn said.

Since a year ago (July 2013), 127,000 more people are employed in Illinois, including 17,000 in manufacturing, he said.

Wheatland Tube, which obtained a $200,000 state grant to upgrade its workers’ skills, plans to hire 20 people in the next six months for jobs such as operating machines, driving forklifts and doing quality inspections, said Jim Hays, president of the electrical fence and mechanical division.

The plant employs 211, and general manager Joe Burns said the average workers’ age at the tubing and conduit plant ranges from 54 to 56; the average hourly wage is $18.

Department Director Jay Rowell says the falling jobless rate “seems to be picking up momentum with the warmer weather.”

The federal government said earlier this month that national unemployment rate edged up to 6.2 percent in July.

But the campaign of Bruce Rauner, the Republican gubernatorial nominee, saw less to celebrate in the state numbers.

“Celebrating today’s job numbers is like cheering a touchdown when you’re down 35 points with two minutes left,” said Mike Schrimpf, a campaign spokesman.

“Our state is still down thousands of jobs since the beginning of the year, we still have one of the worst unemployment rates in the entire country and thousands of Illinoisans have given up looking for work. On top of higher taxes, this means too many families continue to suffer under Pat Quinn. Thankfully, Pat Quinn’s time is almost up and his term in office can’t end soon enough for the working people of Illinois.”

Contributing: Associated Press