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GLEN ELLYN, Ill. (AP) - Republican primary voters are talking about wanting a shake-up in Springfield and say they believe they have a real chance of putting one of their own back in the governor's office.
 
The big issues, they say, are reversing the state's indebtedness and keeping businesses from leaving Illinois. Some are after term limits that they say would do away with "career politicians" too cozy with special interests and unions.
 
Joan Youhn of the western Chicago suburb of Glen Ellyn is an 81-year-old retired medical biller who voted Tuesday for venture capitalist Bruce Rauner. Weighing on her mind, she says, is the economy because her architect son was out of work until recently.
 
She says Illinois needs more statesman-like politicians "who care about what they're doing, not just getting re-elected."
Published in Local News
   WASHINGTON (AP) — More than a million Americans lost their unemployment benefits late last month, when a temporary federal program expired. Congress is debating whether to restore the aid for three more months.
 
   A bill to do so cleared a key procedural hurdle in the Senate on Tuesday. But final passage remains unclear. Democrats say extending the aid would boost hiring and economic growth. But many Republicans say the benefits discourage the unemployed from seeking work and would widen the federal budget gap.
 
Some questions and answers about what's at stake for the U.S. economy:
 
Q. Who's affected?
 
A. Nearly 1.4 million Americans who have been unemployed for more than six months. No longer can people continue to receive checks longer than that. Hundreds of thousands of others will lose their benefits in coming weeks, when they, too, will max out on the six months of unemployment benefits that most states provide.
 
Q. What did the expired program provide?
 
A. Starting at the end of 2008, it gave unemployment payments to people who had exhausted their state benefits. In some cases, people were able to collect aid for nearly two years.
 
Q. Why have some Americans needed benefits for so long?
 
A. Mainly because the job market has remained weak even though the Great Recession officially ended more than 4½ years ago. Many Americans have been unemployed for well beyond six months. More than 5 million jobs were shed in 2009 alone. The national unemployment rate has dropped from a peak of 10 percent to 7 percent. But of the 10.3 million people who are still unemployed, nearly half have been without a job for more than six months, according to the Labor Department.
 
Q. Do extended benefits help the economy?
 
A. Many economists say they do. Unemployment checks help cover the rent, groceries and gasoline for millions of financially squeezed Americans, according to congressional Democrats. It boosts consumer spending and reduces dependence on other government welfare programs. All that lifts the economy slightly. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said in December that continuing the benefits for a full year would add 200,000 jobs and 0.2 percentage points to economic growth in 2014. To put that in context: The economy added an average of fewer than 200,000 jobs a month during 2013. That said, the economic benefit of a three-month extension would be much less.
 
Q. What about critics who argue that these benefits, in effect, pay people not to work?
 
A. Not quite. To receive benefits, an unemployed person is supposed to actively look for work. And supporters note that the checks average $256 a week, which still keeps things pretty close to the poverty line. Congress has renewed the extended benefits each year. But unlike previous yearlong extensions of the emergency benefits, this continuation would be for just three months.
 
Q. What's the cost to taxpayers?
 
A. Extending the benefits for three months would cost $6.4 billion. Most congressional Republicans don't want that sum tacked onto the budget deficit. So they plan to negotiate for additional spending cuts.
 
Q. What happens to people when they lose their unemployment benefits?
 
A. Many basically drop out of the economy. Some apply for Social Security disability benefits to get by, according to academic research. Because of changes to its system, North Carolina began cutting unemployment aid in July. The state's unemployment rate dropped from 8.8 percent in June to 7.4 percent in November. But that's not because lots of people suddenly found jobs. Since they were no longer receiving benefits, many discouraged workers gave up their search and were no longer counted as unemployed. So the state's unemployment rate fell for the wrong reason.
 
Q. But critics say extended unemployment benefits can actually hurt the economy. Why?
 
A. The argument is that extended benefits keep the unemployed on the sidelines, waiting for that perfect job that almost never materializes. Research shows that many employers ignore jobseekers with gaps of more than six months in their resume. When people are out of work that long, their skills start to erode, as does their earning potential, said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former CBO director who has advised Republicans. He calls the program "a mixed blessing." Holtz-Eakin notes that unemployment benefits were created during the Great Depression to address temporary layoffs. It was never intended to be a job re-training or anti-poverty program, he says.
Published in National News
CHICAGO (AP) - Unemployment dropped in Illinois in November to 8.7 percent. It was the third straight monthly decrease but Illinois' unemployment rate remains one of the highest nationally.
 
The Illinois Department of Employment Security said Thursday that the addition of a net 10,300 private-sector jobs helped push unemployment down by two-tenths of a percent in November. The federal government said earlier this month that national unemployment dropped to 7 percent in November from 7.3 percent a month earlier.
 
According the monthly Illinois report, the state added 6,100 construction jobs in November and 6,700 jobs among trade, transportation and utility companies.
 
But the state's manufacturers cut payrolls by a net 10,300 jobs. And government employers cut 4,400 jobs.
 
Published in Local News
Thursday, 14 November 2013 02:40

Homeownership slips in STL area, but still high

   Homeownership in the St. Louis area remains among the highest in the nation, despite a recent decline.  

   Figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau today shows a homeownership rate of just over 70 percent from 2010 through 2012.  That's down almost two-percent from the prior three-year period.  But the current statistics put St. Louis second behind Minneapolis in the nation's 50 largest metro areas.  

   The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the numbers vary widely across the region, with more than 80 percent of homes in Jefferson and St. Charles counties being owner-occupied, compared with less than 45 percent in City of St. Louis. 

Published in Local News
Thursday, 07 November 2013 03:50

World markets cautiously await key US data

   KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Global stock markets were mostly weaker Thursday, with a cautious mood prevailing ahead of key U.S. data that will provide further clues on when the Federal Reserve will cut monetary stimulus.

   Major European benchmarks were muted in early trading. Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.3 percent to 6,724.16 and France's CAC-40 added 0.1 percent to 4,290.43. Germany's DAX gained 0.1 percent to 9,047.30.

   Futures pointed to a weaker open on Wall Street where Twitter will start trading following an initial public offering that valued the social network at $18 billion. S&P 500 and Dow Jones futures were both down 0.1 percent.

   Stan Shamu, market strategist for IG in Melbourne, Australia, said investors are staying on the sidelines ahead of the release of the advance estimate of U.S. third quarter economic growth later Thursday and October jobs figures on Friday.

   Both reports could signal how much longer the Federal Reserve will continue its bond purchases at the current $85 billion a month rate. That program has held down interest rates, kept bond yields low and made stocks more attractive for investors.

   Market expectations are also growing that the European Central Bank and the Bank of England may disappoint and not cut interest rates at policy meetings Thursday to shore up a recovery from recession, he said.

   "With two central banks, a U.S. GDP and jobs report all due out, we were always bound to see some nervous trading," Shamu said.

   DBS Vickers in Hong Kong said in a market commentary that the ECB is likely to put off a rate cut amid a pick-up in production and confidence, but it may open the door for possible easing in December when it releases its quarterly economic projections,

   Earlier in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 shed 0.8 percent to 14,228.44 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.7 percent at 22,881.03. China's Shanghai Composite fell 0.5 percent to 2,129.40 and Seoul's Kospi dropped 0.5 percent to 2004.04.

   Benchmark crude for December delivery was down 17 cents at $94.63 in electronic trading at the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.43 to close at $94.80 a barrel on Wednesday.

   The euro rose to $1.3520 from $1.3510 late Wednesday. The dollar was little changed at 98.68 yen.

Published in National News

   WASHINGTON (AP) — Renewed questions about the economy's health and uncertainty surrounding the government's budget fight will likely lead the Federal Reserve on Wednesday to maintain the pace of the stimulus it's supplying to the economy.

   That expectation marks a reversal from just six weeks ago, when almost everyone expected the Fed to start trimming its $85 billion in monthly bond purchases. The bond buying is intended to keep long-term interest rates low to help the economy rebound from the Great Recession.

   The Fed is to announce its decision in a statement after a two-day policy meeting.

   The central bank surprised investors and economists at its last meeting in September when it chose not to reduce its bond buying. Since then, a 16-day partial government shutdown shaved an estimated $25 billion from economic growth this quarter. And a batch of tepid economic data pointed to a still-subpar economy.

   Now, few think the Fed will reduce its stimulus any time soon. Many analysts now predict the Fed will maintain the pace of its bond purchases into next year.

   "I think March is now the earliest that any reduction in bond purchases will happen," said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial.

   By then, Fed members expect to have seen several months of stronger job growth. They also expect Congress to have resolved its budget impasse.

   If the Fed does start slowing its stimulus in March, it will have left its policy unchanged not just this week but also at its next meeting in December and at its subsequent meeting in late January.

   The January meeting will be the last for Chairman Ben Bernanke, who is stepping down after eight years. President Barack Obama has chosen Vice Chair Janet Yellen to succeed Bernanke.

   Assuming that Yellen is confirmed by the Senate, her first meeting as chairman will be in March. Many economists think no major policy changes will occur before a new chairman takes over.

   Congress' budget fight has clouded the Fed's timetable. Though the government reopened Oct. 17 and a threatened default on its debt was averted, Congress adopted only temporary fixes. More deadlines and possible economic disruptions lie ahead.

   A House-Senate conference committee is working toward a budget accord. But wide differences separate Democrats and Republicans on spending and taxes. Without a deal by Jan. 15, another shutdown is possible. Congress must also raise the government's debt ceiling after Feb. 7. If not, a market-rattling default will remain a threat.

   The standoff has led economists to trim their forecasts for economic growth in the October-December quarter. The Conference Board said Tuesday that its index of consumer confidence dropped to 71.2 in October, the lowest level since April. The decline was attributed, in part, to the government shutdown.

   Employers added just 148,000 jobs in September, a steep slowdown from August. And temporary layoffs during the shutdown are expected to depress October's job gain.

   In June, when Bernanke suggested that the Fed could reduce its bond buying by year's end, the Dow Jones industrial average plunged 560 points in two days. Many investors feared that the Fed might remove its support prematurely and derail an already subpar recovery from the recession.

   Interest rates rose, too. The increase particularly in mortgage rates, before the Fed had even begun to change policy, alarmed the central bank. Higher mortgage rates could dampen the gains in housing, which has been a rare bright spot for the economy.

   Given the panic among investors when Bernanke raised the prospect that the Fed would slow its bond purchases, analysts think any pullback will be very gradual.

   "The one thing Janet Yellen will not want to do is start her term by making a mistake," said Brian Bethune, an economics professor at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif. "She will be extremely cautious and will try to signal that the Fed is starting to back off its bond purchases without causing the kinds of effects we saw in the summer."

   This week's meeting is the first since Obama announced Oct. 9 his choice of Yellen to be chairman. David Jones, chief economist at DMJ Advisors and the author of several books on the Fed, said her status could change the dynamics.

   "Bernanke is essentially a lame duck, and Yellen has not yet taken over," Jones said. "It will make the Fed more cautious."

   Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has said he will oppose Yellen's nomination unless the Senate votes on a bill he's sponsoring to subject the Fed's rate decisions to review by the Government Accountability Office.

   Yellen is still expected to win Senate confirmation, but a vote by the full Senate may not come until January. The Senate Banking Committee is considering holding a hearing on the nomination Nov. 14.

   Once the Fed starts trimming its bond purchases, economists foresee reductions of $10 billion to $20 billion a month as long as the economy improves consistently. Some analysts think the Fed could finish its purchases by the end of 2014.

   "But if something goes wrong, then they will stop or at least slow down the reductions," said David Wyss, a former chief economist at Standard & Poor's and now an economics professor at Brown University.

Published in National News

   The impacts of the federal shutdown on the local St. Louis economy probably won't amount to much -- as long as it doesn't last long.  

   The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that economists and business leaders generally agree that a few days of federal worker furloughs and closed federal parks won't have a big impact.  But with about 25,000 St. Louis area residents working for the federal government, and many thousands more working for private companies that rely on federal contracts, a long-term shutdown could have greater impact.  

   Right now, the paper reports that private employers like Boeing and Unisys aren't changing staffing levels, but all say they are monitoring the situation.

Published in Local News

   U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D) is chiding House Republicans for failing to allow an up-or-down vote on a so-called "clean funding" bill.  

   McCaskill released a statement as the midnight deadline passed in Washington, saying the government shutdown will upset economic recovery.  She criticized House Speaker John Boehner (R), calling his handing of the budget process "irresponsible political posturing."  

   The St. Louis County Democrat says the federal government shutdown will hurt Missourians by delaying veterans' benefits, causing  furloughs for 39,000 federal employees in Missouri, delaying loans for small businesses and Social Security checks for seniors enrolling in the program for the first time.

   During an interview with CNN's Wolfe Blitzer Monday evening, 2nd District Congresswoman Ann Wagoner (R) said the House GOP were the only ones working to avoid the shutdown.  

   The St. Louis County Republican criticized Senate leadership and President Obama for failing to negotiate over the weekend.  

   Wagoner issued a statement after the midnight deadline saying that she has waived her salary for the duration of the government shutdown "because congress didn't get the job done."  Wagoner blamed the deadlock on "partisan bickering."

Published in Local News
Thursday, 26 September 2013 13:15

Job fair underway in Collinsville

A job fair is just getting underway in Collinsville Thursday.

The fair runs from 1 PM to 5 PM at the Gateway Convention Center. Some of the companies looking to hire; AAA, Clearwave Communications, Illinois state Police, Missouri State Highway Patrol, and the Special School District of St. Louis County.

Published in Local News

ST. LOUIS (AP) - New Census Bureau figures show Illinois' poverty rate remained stubbornly near 15 percent last year, and anti-poverty advocates say that's a sign an economic recovery isn't trickling down to the least fortunate.

The latest figures suggest that 14.7 percent of Illinoisans, or about 1.85 million people, lived in poverty last year. That's down ever slightly from 15 percent, or 1.88 million, in 2011.

The national rate also remained at 15 percent.

Amy Terpstra of the Chicago-based Heartland Alliance's Social Impact Research Center says the latest figures may make the case for raising Illinois' minimum wage. It's set at $8.25 an hour. Gov. Pat Quinn is pushing that idea, but business executives say it could backfire and force employers to eliminate jobs.

 

Published in Local News
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