Good news on local economic front

Steve Tarter

Continued economic growth - that's what is indicated in the latest economic survey from Bradley University.

"We've been going up for a couple of years now," 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 released Monday for the fourth quarter of 2011, Goitein's graph continued to climb in charting the local economic situation.

"The index is at 97.2 so we're getting back to the 100 level that we were at in 2008 before the recession hit," he said.

The number of employed area residents totaled 191,076 in the fourth quarter of 2011. That's 4.3 percent more than the 187,224 counted in the fourth quarter in 2010.

Construction also was up - 2.1 percent over the third quarter and 6.1 percent more than the previous year, he said.

Manufacturing continued to be a bright spot in the central Illinois economy, up 3.5 percent over the previous quarter and 12.6 percent above year-earlier levels, said Goitein, adding that the increasemeans that the area's manufacturing and health care sectors are running neck and neck, both with just over 30,000 jobs.

The area's health care industry remained steady, said Goitein, pointing to 30,260 jobs in the health sector in the fourth quarter, up 2.7 percent over the 29, 472 employed in the fourth quarter of 2010.

While employment was up, retail spending remained flat in the area, he said. "That follows a nationwide trend where people are paying down debt before spending the money in stores," said Goitein.

Jobs in the hospitality-entertainment industry, basically a barometer of restaurant employment, also remained flat with just a 0.2 percent increase from 2010 to 2011, he said.

Declining interest rates and lower home prices were behind a 2 percent increase in homes sold in the fourth quarter of 2011 over the fourth quarter of 2010, said Goitein.

The number of single-family building permits issued in the last quarter of 2011 was 6.3 percent, down from the number issued in the fourth quarter of 2010.