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Evanston workers rebound from job cuts

Evanston lost 6 percent of its private sector jobs last year, the biggest drop for any north suburban Cook County community.

The numbers, contained in a report from the state Department of Employment Security, were distributed at an Evanston Economic Development Committee meeting last week.

The jobs report, though only recently released, compares the number of jobs in the community in March 2004 and March 2005.

Jonathan Perman, executive director of the Evanston Chamber of Commerce, said that during that period Evanston lost as many as 1,000 jobs when both Kendall College and National Louis University moved out of the city.

In addition, he said, the Hotel Orrington closed for a year for renovations, costing the city perhaps another 300 jobs.

A different state report offers hints that Evanston may have recovered from last year's job slump. Unemployment among Evanston residents, which stood at 4.4 percent in Oct. 2005, had declined to 3.0 percent by this October.

The two reports cover different aspects of the economy. The jobs report looks at the number of jobs in a communty, whether they are held by residents or non-residents. The unemployment numbers look only at community residents — whether they work in the town where they live or in some other place.

This October's Evanston's jobless number wasn't the lowest in the region — Highland Park and Elmhurst tied for that honor at 2.3 percent. But it was lower than the 3.6 percent average for Illinois and the 4.1 percent average for the nation.

Turning back to the where people work numbers, Chicago and the northwest suburbs in Cook County showed modest gains in jobs last year. Job levels in most other parts of the county were essentially unchanged, but the northern Cook County suburbs on average lost nearly 2 percent of their jobs.

The report shows Evanston with 36,021 private sector jobs, which puts it in second place in northern Cook County behind Northbrook, which saw an increase of over 4 percent to 43,844 jobs. Skokie placed third, declining less than 2 percent to 33,382 jobs. Glenview increased 1 percent to 20,700 jobs.

EDC members noted that Northbrook, more recently developed, has more open space for adding retail, office and manufacturing positions.

Evanston had shown some increases in jobs in recent years, so last year it was down less than 5 percent from a decade earlier. During the past 10 years Skokie has lost 22 percent of its jobs,  Northbrook has gained 6 percent and Glenview is up 14 percent. Northern Cook County as a whole had 3 percent fewer jobs last year than a decade earlier.

The state jobs figures exclude government workers and the self-employed.

In the government sector, the City of Evanston has 867 full- and part-time employees. A Chamber of Commerce study says School District 65 has 700 and Evanston Township High School has 566.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 4,912 Evanston residents were self-employed last year, although only 2,339 worked full-time year-round in their own business.

So it appears that Evanston's total private-sector employee, self-employed and government workforce tops 43,000 positions.

The Census Bureau estimates that 32,674 Evanston residents had jobs last year. And 21,437 of those jobs were full-time.

So, on balance, Evanston, unlike bedroom suburbs, draws more workers into town each day than it sends out to jobs elsewhere.

Despite the loss of jobs last year, Evanston gained more employers. It had 2,440 private-sector employers last year, up nearly 4 percent from a year earlier and up nearly 11 percent from a decade ago.

The average Evanston firm has just under 15 employees, but Evanston has a handful of very large employers, including Northwestern University, two hospitals — Evanston and St. Francis – and two major retirement communities — Presbyterian Homes and Mather LifeWays.

Add in the city itself and the school districts, Rotary International, and the Jewel/Osco Food Stores and the top 10 Evanston employers account for about a third of all jobs in town, based on chamber and city estimates.

Excluding the top 10, and the self-employed, the average Evanston business has just under 10 employees.

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