Experts optimistic that city’s economy will stay on uptick
By David Sharos For The Sun December 15, 2012 10:52PM
Updated: January 17, 2013 6:27AM
As 2012 comes to a close, many wonder whether we are economically on the verge of slipping backward into a deeper recession, or if the slow but steady improvement seen this year will continue.
Employment statistics throughout the state show that the recovery of the job market in Illinois, and particularly Naperville, has been strong in the past 12 months and is likely to continue, as long as other factors remain out of the equation.
Greg Rivara, spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Economic Security, said that three areas in particular, professional and business services, manufacturing, and education and health care, have become the leading job sector categories in the past year, along with an uptick in the leisure and hospitality areas.
Naperville, Rivara said, offers all of these opportunities and is likely to continue to reflect the trend it has shown in the past.
“Even during the recession, Naperville outperformed many areas of the country due to the educational level and participation of its labor force,” Rivara said.
Other local sources, including area employment agencies, also reflect a positive local forecast, though tempered by the undetermined fate of the federal “fiscal cliff.”
Allison Smith Rushin, executive recruiter and office manager of Snelling Staffing in Lisle, said “client employers are currently developing their staffing plans for 2013 and are already informing us of their hiring needs.”
“We actually had a 30 percent increase in clients this year, which means people are coming to us and looking for help with their hiring,” she said. “Our office works with about 60 percent Naperville people, either living in the city or with those placed there. The biggest area we see for 2013 will be in industrial sales and sales engineers. We know this because you can’t grow your business if you don’t expand your sales.”
Sales tax revenue in Naperville is up this year according to local sources like Christine Jeffries, president of the Naperville Development Partnership, and newly-appointed CEO of the Naperville Chamber of Commerce Mike Evans, who said that growth in retail sales in Naperville “reflects consumer confidence.”
“You have to factor in the ‘fiscal cliff’ and not ignore the solution, but assuming the government reaches a practical resolution, the growth we’ve had in local retail sales suggests that Naperville as well as the surrounding areas is going to continue to rise,” Evans said. “Businesses have learned through this crisis to operate leaner and more efficiently and there has also been the emergence of a lot of entrepreneurial efforts. If the state legislature keeps out of the way and puts fewer restrictions on businesses ... we all could do a lot more.”
Evans said that Naperville has held steady at 7 to 7 ½-percent unemployment throughout the entire year, a figure that remains lower than other areas of DuPage County as well as nearby communities. Rivara said the latest data from the state shows Naperville’s unemployment falling to 6.8 percent in October of this year, as compared to 7.4 percent at the same time the previous year.
Seasonal employment often drives unemployment figures lower, Rivara said, but notes “there are two good stories about it.”
“There are things you see and don’t see about seasonal hirings and they’re both good,” Rivara said. “The first is that we are seeing an increase this year in the actual number of seasonal hires as compared to a year ago, and the second is something that you don’t see: workers that were already there are getting their hours increased.”