Local index shows economic growth in Peoria Area

Steve Tarter
A recent survey shows the economy seems to be picking up.

Considering the extent of the area’s economic decline in recent years, it’s been no small effort in getting the Peoria-area economy turned around, said Bernard Goitein, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at Bradley University’s Foster College of Business Administration.

In the Statistical Composite of the Peoria Economy that Goitein released  last week for the first quarter of 2011, the bottom line is steady improvement.

“It’s nice to see the recovery extended,” said Goitein, noting that the latest summary index of key local business and economic indicators was up 2 percent over first-quarter results in 2010.

Manufacturing continued to be a factor in that recovery, he said.

Manufacturing employment in the first quarter saw its fourth consecutive quarter of growth with first-quarter employment at 26,961, a figure that’s up 8.6 percent over the year before, said Goitein.

Unemployment claims continued to drop in 2011.

“Improved market conditions pushed the local unemployment rate down from 11.2 percent to 8.4 percent,” he said.

The number of people working was up 3.3 percent over the year, said Goitein.

“Caterpillar Inc., a company that remains very important to our local industrial sector, reported first-quarter machinery and engine sales of $12.2 billion, 49 percent over revenue levels of the first quarter in 2010,” he said.

Health care growth continued in the first quarter, as it has over the past decade, said Goitein. Employment in the health care sector reached 29,522, an increase of 1.7 percent over last year.

Home sales are down 16.5 percent from a year ago, he said.

The number of homes available for sale in the local market fell from first-quarter levels of last year as well as the previous quarter in 2010, said Goitein.

A preliminary estimate of retail sales was up by 5.9 percent in the first quarter of 2011, he said.

“Employment in retail trade recovered from earlier declines, reaching 25,110 during the first quarter, up 1.2 percent from the year before,” said Goitein.

“Looking ahead, gains locally in the four leading indicators — new unemployment claims, job opening index, area unemployment rate and single family building permits — signal further improvements in the months ahead,” he said.

The center computes its quarterly summary index for the five-county (Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, Stark and Marshall) area. The index fell to its most recent low in the third quarter of 2009. The Peoria Journal Star funds maintenance of the business indicator database.