·        Illinois unemployment rate drops.  The Illinois unemployment rate dropped from 4.9% to 4.8% in December 2017.  The declining jobless rate to close out calendar year 2017 was another sign of a stable employment picture in the Land of Lincoln, with Illinois employers supporting an estimated 6,050,900 nonfarm payroll jobs.  This marked an increase of 1,500 jobs from the previous month, and an increase of almost 30,000 jobs from December 2016.  The new figures were published by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), which tracks and monitors Illinois employment and unemployment. 

IDES looks at the Illinois job picture to see where new jobs are being created or lost.  During the twelve-month period of calendar year 2017, job growth was concentrated in manufacturing and financial activities.  The Illinois financial sector has been strong in previous years that have marked a recovery from the 2008-09 economic downturn, but the net growth in Illinois manufacturing jobs marks a reversal after many years of declining activity in this sector.  More than one-half of the 29,600 net new jobs created were hired by these two sectors.  One area of weakness was the Illinois public sector, with Illinois units of government employing 4,100 fewer workers at year’s end than at the beginning of the year. 

MONTGOMERY – State Representative Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) lauded the announcement made by Carl Buddig & Co. on Monday that they will be expanding their operations within Illinois with the purchase of the former Butterball facility in Montgomery. The facility has been vacant since prior operations ceased in July 2017. Buddig will utilize the 280,000 square foot facility to grow its manufacturing footprint for lunch meats and specialty meats production.

The project will create 250 jobs within the first two years of operations and then ramp up to 350 jobs by year five. Buddig employs over 1,200 people within Illinois. The Governor, the Department of Commerce and Intersect Illinois worked with State Senator Jim Oberweis, State Representative Keith Wheeler, local government officials, local economic development organizations and other key stakeholders to ensure this project’s success.

“This is a great day for the Village of Montgomery,” said Representative Wheeler. “An investment of this magnitude will offer not only relief for this resilient community, but tremendous opportunity in the years to come. I am thrilled to welcome Buddig into the 50th District and look forward to seeing this facility filled once again. Moving forward as we head back to Springfield, we must keep working to improve the employment climate in our state to create even more Illinois jobs for Illinois families.”
·        Chicago makes the cut to 20 in Amazon’s HQ2 search. and its owner-CEO, Jeff Bezos, have announced their intent to create a second headquarters in addition to Amazon’s current headquarters in Seattle.  In late 2017, the firm asked cities in North America to submit plans and proposals for the global marketing firm to initiate a major expansion.  Amazon’s stated criteria for selecting their location for potential expansion included a city within an urban area with more than 1 million people and within 45 minutes of an international airport.  The presence of mass-transit infrastructure was described as strongly desirable but not essential.  The firm stated that it was their intent to create a research, development, and logistics management complex that could support as many as 50,000 jobs. 

On Thursday, January 18, Amazon released a list of 20 cities and metro areas, including Chicago, that meet the criteria set forth by the company.  Other major cities on the list included Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, New York City and northern New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. and the Capital Beltway.  Several applicants, including St. Louis, did not meet all of the points sought by the firm.  Amazon will continue negotiations and develop a short list of remaining contenders at a time to be announced.
Budget – Taxpayer’s Fiscal Charter
·        House Republican lawmaker files bill to create Illinois Taxpayer’s Fiscal Charter.  If enacted into law the new bill, filed by Representative C.D. Davidsmeyer, will impose controls on the currently out-of-control Illinois budget process.  It will freeze all discretionary, taxpayer-paid State of Illinois spending until the State gets its payment cycle to vendors below 30 days.  The bill bans enactment of new State programs until a full pension payment, based on actuarial requirements, is made.  It will move the State of Illinois towards Pay as you Go budgeting, prohibit the imposition of unfunded mandates, and create a sunshine procedure for future State budgets. 

Rep. Davidsmeyer calls for all legislators who file legislation that creates new spending to file, as part of their bill to create the new program, legal language to raise taxes or cut spending to pay for the new program.  The lawmaker represents a west-central Illinois district centering on Jacksonville.  The Taxpayer’s Fiscal Charter bill was filed on Tuesday, January 9, as HB 4229.
Rep. Wheeler was honored to participate in the 10th anniversary celebration at Heritage Woods of Yorkville on Thursday with residents and staff. Rep. Wheeler noted how Heritage Woods exudes a sense of family and community.

·        Revenues up, but overall budget picture clouded by poor retail spending numbers.  The December 2017 State revenue report by the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) shows that State revenues rose by $438 million over comparable levels in December 2016, an increase of 15.4%.  This increase is helping to pay off some of the $8.7 billion backlog of unpaid State bills. 

However, the Commission’s economic team has called the General Assembly’s attention to areas of weakness within the revenue numbers.  Sales tax receipts declined by 4%, or $34 million, on a year-over-year basis within the overall revenue increase.  The poor sales tax numbers were attributed by economists to the continuing challenges faces by participants in the U.S. retail sector.