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updated: 1/23/2014 7:15 PM

Kane County unemployment program puts few back to work

Unemployment program yields 'frustrating' results

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Kane County's programs to reduce local unemployment placed only 85 people back into the workforce during the last six months of 2013, according to the latest numbers.

It's a number both county officials and staffers would like to be higher.

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The report numbers, compiled by Kane County staffers who oversee the use of federal Workforce Investment Act dollars, covers July 1 through Dec. 31, 2013. The staff said the numbers are preliminary.

A three-county workforce investment board directs the unemployment programs. The staffing for the program is overseen by Kane County personnel. Programs assist residents in Kane, Kendall and DeKalb counties. The 85-person statistic is the cumulative number of people put back to work in those three counties.

That's not nearly good enough, said county board member Melisa Taylor, a member of the county board's Jobs Committee.

"It's no disrespect, but 85 people for six months of time is ridiculously low," Taylor said. "That number has got to be higher. There's a disconnect somewhere. It's just frustrating."

Local unemployment statistics show how frustrating.

Preliminary unemployment numbers from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics released earlier this month show nearly 30,000 unemployed residents across Kane, Kendall and DeKalb counties in November 2013. More than two-thirds of those unemployed residents live in Kane County, where the non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 7.5 percent.

Scott Berger is part of the county staff who oversees the training, education and placement programs the federal dollars fund. He said there are at least three reasons more people haven't been put back to work.

The first is a general lack of money to fund the programs.

"We have placed more people into employment than any other workforce area, but the numbers are declining," Berger said. "We are in the post-stimulus era. When cash was everywhere, job placements were increasing. Now we're seeing some contraction in the program."

The partial government shutdown in October also created uncertainty surrounding the fewer dollars the programs received. Because of the uncertainty, the county couldn't enroll new clients into classes and certificate programs at local community colleges for the fall session. Those people were told they would have to wait until the spring enrollment.

"It's a hangover effect," Berger said. "And you're going to continue to see that. I would love to say it was a two-week shutdown and after that the negative impact was over. I can't say that."

A final reason involves the sudden closing of the unemployment office in DeKalb last fall and the possible closure or relocation of the unemployment office in Aurora.

Berger said he and his staff are pushing the state to keep an unemployment office in Kane County and move it closer to public transportation, if possible.

"I believe they are looking at maintaining a presence in Kane County," Berger said. "Our constituents are best served by having these offices in our area. We need to be mindful that the people in this office also represent Kane County jobs. So whatever we can do to preserve these jobs in our area is good."

Berger said he expects it will be summer before the fate of the Aurora unemployment office is known.

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