Most area counties joined the state last month in having above 9 percent unemployment rates, making the state average one of the highest in the nation.
One county, Effingham, managed to stay below the statewide average of 9.5 percent, reporting a jobless rate of 7.9 percent in March while Jasper County reported 9 percent. Effingham's rate was 1.5 percent less than February and Jasper's decreased even more, dropping 2.1 percent.
Hovering above the state average was Shelby County with 9.6 percent. Marion County had the highest jobless rate in the area at 11.7 percent. The county also had the highest rate in February with 13.5 percent.
Jobless rates in Marion, as well as Clay and Fayette counties have remained high and are among the top 10 highest compared to other counties in the state, according to labor market economist Dennis Hoffman, with the Illinois Department of Employment Security.
Still, those counties, along with others, reported drops in unemployment. Clay County dropped from 13.4 percent in February to 11.5 percent in March; Cumberland County, from 13 percent to 10.8 percent; and Fayette, from 12.9 to 10.9 percent.
March rates were slightly higher than a year ago for all area counties, with Cumberland County reporting the biggest increase. That county's rate increased by 1.4 percent from March 2012, and Clay County's increased 1.2 percent.
Hoffman attributes the increase to weather conditions.
“A year ago was much drier. Things were more active earlier in the spring,” he said, but noted the difference is slight – less than 1 percent for most counties, including Effingham, Fayette, Jasper, Marion and Shelby.
Hoffman looks for April's figures to show an improvement while at the same time acknowledging a delay in normal activity because of the weather.
“Springtime spurs construction activity and leisure and hospitality trade,” he said. “I look for improvement through summer, which is the best time of year for employment.”