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Illinois Unemployment Numbers Indicate 'Very Positive' Sign

CHICAGO (CBS) -- You've got to go back.

Way back for 585 days. To February of 2020. That's before you see numbers this low:  8,089. That's how many people in Illinois filed for unemployment last week.

CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reports on what it could mean. Economists said it could be a sign of good things to come.

Signs point to a growing a workforce But we'll need to watch the numbers over the next couple of weeks. St Lucca Osteria in Oak Brook, the manager is hoping it means he'll finally fill his open jobs.

General manager Carlo Calderone said Lucca Osteria & Bar's unique Italian cuisine. It has already started catching attention.

"Fourteen, 15 weeks ago we opened. Italian cuisine that's based on north of Italy. Chef Claudio is from Lucca."

But for now, they're only open Tuesday through Saturday. Because they need more workers. He has many open positions.

"Right now four or five in the back of the house and a lot in the front," Calderone said, adding it's their biggest challenge.

They've been watching the new unemployment claims steadily decline. On Thursday came news that 8,089 people filed for unemployment last week in Illinois, cutting claims from the week before in half to levels not seen since early February of 2020.

"I think overall we're seeing very positive signs."

Hatim Rahman, Professor at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management, attributes the drop to caregivers, many of them women, returning to the workforce as kids head back to the classroom. He added the labor shortage that restaurants like Lucca are experiencing is…

"Forcing organizations, as I said, to increase their incentives their pay their training to be more creative in improving jobs and the quality of it."

Calderone said working hard to attract workers who are hoping to gain valuable skills.

"Maybe we will have more possibility for people to come in and apply," Calderone said. "You need to be positive in this business you need to."

As he and others cross their fingers that fewer and fewer workers in Illinois will be joining the unemployment line.

"There's a lot to be optimistic about but we have to be careful and very watchful," Rahman said.

When asked if the end of some federal unemployment benefits over the Labor Day weekend had an impact, he said research in other states and in Europe has shown that an end to those benefits actually hasn't had that much of an impact.

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