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Mitsubishi

This undated file photo shows the now-closed Mitsubishi Motors North America plant in Normal.

BLOOMINGTON — The closing of the Mitsubishi auto plant finally showed up in state unemployment statistics, with the closure leading to the highest jobless rate in McLean County in two years.

There were 1,100 fewer jobs available in January in the Bloomington metro area compared to a year ago, according to statistics released Thursday by the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

The area, which includes McLean and DeWitt counties, had 92,500 people working in January compared to 93,600 in January 2015.

“That is a significant number and when you break it down by industry, you will see that there was a decline of 1,000 jobs in manufacturing,” said IDES spokesman Ron Payne.

That can be attributed to the shutdown of the Mitsubishi Motors North America plant in Normal that employed 1,200 workers until production shut down last fall.

The McLean County unemployment rate climbed to 6.4 percent in January, the highest rate in almost two years. A year ago, the rate was 5.2 percent in McLean County. The jobless rate in December was 5.5 percent.

“We saw across-the-board increases everywhere except for Cook County,” Payne said. “I think what we are seeing is more people entering or re-entering the work force. That relates to confidence in the economy. When people who have been out of work for awhile see that companies are hiring or they see their buddy got a job, they often decide that maybe it’s the right time to begin looking.”

In addition to the 1,000 lost jobs in manufacturing, declines were reported in professional and business services (700), construction (300) and government (300), compared to a year ago. There were gains in financial activities (600), retail trade (400), and education and health services (400).

“While the unemployment rate did rise 1.2 percent compared to a year ago, the Bloomington rate is still the lowest in the state,” he said. “That is still a credit to a lot of stable industries in the area.”

Those looking for work may also be helped with the arrival of spring, he said.

“We had a mild winter, so I would look for an uptick in the outdoor jobs pretty quickly,” he said. “Construction and ag-related jobs should get going very soon.”

Other Central Illinois counties and January jobless rates (January 2014 in parentheses) were DeWitt, 7.6 percent (6.1 percent); Ford, 7.6 percent (6.1 percent); LaSalle, 9.6 percent (8.3 percent); Livingston, 7.4 percent (6.1 percent); Logan, 7.1 percent (6.2 percent); Tazewell, 8.5 percent (7.1 percent); and Woodford, 7.2 percent (5.8 percent).

In Illinois, the unemployment rate in January rose to 7.1 percent, an increase of three-tenths of 1 percent from a year ago. The national rate was 5.3 percent, a drop of eight-tenths of 1 percent from January 2015.

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​Follow Kevin Barlow on Twitter: @pg_barlow.

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