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Flash Index indicates Illinois economy gaining steam

J. Fred Giertz, Institute of Government and Public Affairs

Mark Reutter , Business Editor

EDITORS, NEWS DIRECTORS: The Flash Index of Economic Growth, produced by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign economists, is based on the most up-to-date information on the state economy.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The University of Illinois Flash Economic Index extended its gains last month, rising to 97.3 in November from 96.8 in October. The November reading was the highest since December 2001.

The recovery, which is gaining steam nationally, appears to be taking hold in Illinois, although the Flash Index has not yet reached the 100 dividing line between economic growth and contraction. The Index has been below 100 for 31 consecutive months, or since May 2001.

The Flash reading for last month was complicated by the state’s tax amnesty program, which allowed taxpayers to pay back-tax obligations without penalties or interest from Oct. 1, 2003, through Nov. 15, 2003. Amnesty payments had a major impact on corporate tax receipts and a lesser impact on individual income-tax collections for November. It was necessary to separate the amnesty revenues from normal revenues to calculate the Flash Index for the month.

Sales tax receipts, largely unaffected by the amnesty, were up strongly for the month compared with November of last year, according to J. Fred Giertz, the University of Illinois economist who released the Flash results today. Overall, the Index was at 95.3 in November a year ago.

The Flash Index is a weighted average of Illinois growth rates in corporate earnings, consumer spending and personal income. Tax receipts from corporate income, personal income and retail sales are adjusted for inflation before growth rates are calculated. The growth rate for each component is then calculated for the 12-month period using data through Nov. 30.

line chart showing upward movement in Flash Index for second consecutive month