* Some good news…
The economic recovery may have stalled in parts of the South and West hit hard by the housing bubble, but Rust Belt states, buoyed by a manufacturing comeback, have seen a steady decline in their jobless rates over the last year.
Of the 10 states where unemployment rates dipped the most from May 2010 to May 2011, Rust Belt states — Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois — account for half, according to Labor Department figures.
Locally, metropolitan areas in the five Rust Belt states accounted for 30 of the top 34 declines in regional unemployment rates since last year, as well.
* More good news…
Chicago hoteliers are having their best year since 2008, as both occupancy and room rates are climbing thanks to increasing business and leisure travel.
The average daily room rate at Chicago-area hotels through May was $107.44, up 5.7% from $101.61 through the same period last year. The occupancy rate, meanwhile, stood at 56.8% compared with 54.3% through May last year, according to Smith Travel Research.
Seeing room rate and occupancies increase during the winter months is a strong indicator that the upcoming peak summer season won’t disappoint, says Brian Flanagan, president of Property Valuation Advisors Inc., a Chicago-based hotel appraisal and consulting firm.
* Even more…
Last year, Illinois generated $29.3 billion in revenue from the tourism industry, an increase of more than $2.2 billion from 2009, according to tourism data from Quinn’s office. Illinois visitor numbers increased by 5 percent, to 84.7 million, according to the data.
* Some mixed news…
Fewer leisure travelers came to Chicago last year, marking a low point for the city’s tourism in the past six years. But business travel perked back up.
A total of 38.1 million people came to Chicago in 2010, according to figures released Monday by Gov. Pat Quinn’s office. That was down 3.5% from 39.5 million visitors in 2009 and a 16.6% drop from 45.7 million in 2008. (Travel to Chicago peaked in the past decade in 2007, when 46.3 million people visited the city.)
Don Welsh, president and CEO of the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau, pins the drop on people reluctant to make day trips into the city.
“We’ve had a couple of spikes in gasoline prices, so in many cases, people will stay closer to home,” Mr. Welsh said.
But he says he is encouraged by the data showing the number of overnight visitors to Chicago rose 7.4% in 2010.
* But here’s yet another troubling report about a corporate tax incentive…
A $64.7-million state deal last September to keep Navistar International Corp. in Illinois lacks a guarantee that the truck and engine maker won’t cut jobs here. […]
In its application for state tax credits, Navistar said it employed 3,100 workers in four Chicago-area locations but planned to pare that number to 2,200, while hiring 400 more “over the next several years.”
Because of efficiencies and “normal attrition,” it added, “it is anticipated that the current work number will be reduced by 15-20%.”
Don Sharp, Navistar’s chief information officer and the company executive who negotiated the deal, said local employment should rebound to “that 3,100 number or above” by the end of next year, spurred by the closing of a truck plant in Ft. Wayne, Ind., and other consolidation.
Asked yesterday about a similar incentive for Motorola, which allowed it to reduce its state workforce by 800 people and still retain its $100 million tax package, Quinn said the proposal was a good one and added “They’re not going to be cutting back.”
Quinn also talked about reports that Sears is shopping around for a new headquarters. Listen…