State Farm Insurance said Friday it will hire 3,000 people across the U.S. and Canada, filling many positions left empty during the recession, and add 900 agents.
The news follows an announcement this week by Chrysler that it will add almost 2,000 workers at a plant in northern Illinois, as well as evidence that the national economy continues to pick up steam. The federal government said Friday that the national unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in three years.
Bloomington based State Farm said it is accepting applications for the 3,000 jobs, which will be mainly in customer service, claims and information technology. In all, the hires will increase the company's workforce -- currently at more than 65,000 employees, not including its 17,800 agents -- by 4.6 percent.
Spokeswoman Holly Anderson said 300 of the staff jobs will be in Bloomington, and the rest will be widely scattered.
"During the economic downturn, we really carefully monitored our staffing levels. We are now hiring just to maintain and enhance our customer service response," she said.
The company didn't lay off large numbers of workers during the downturn, but left many positions open as workers left, Anderson said.
State Farm will be trying in particular to recruit military veterans, she said, through both virtual and in-person job fairs.
"We have had a lot of success with veterans," she said. "We think it's an easy transition for them to make."
Unemployment among veterans who have served since the 2001 terrorist attacks has been higher than the nation as a whole, though it dropped last month to 9.1 percent from just over 13 percent in December, the Department of Labor reported Friday.
Nationwide unemployment fell to 8.3 percent in January, the department said Friday, down from 8.5 percent in December, and the lowest level since February 2009.
State Farm is a privately held company and reports only limited financial information annually in March. Last year, the company said that profit during 2010 doubled to $1.8 billion.
State Farm has 15,000 employees in Bloomington and is the largest employer in an area that has one of Illinois' lowest unemployment rates. Just 7 percent of the McLean County workforce was jobless in December, the most recent month that local information is available.
University of Illinois economist Fred Giertz called State Farm's motivation for adding employees an encouraging anecdote in a day of good economic news.
"The thing about State Farm, more than just the number of jobs, is the fact that they said it was as result of business picking up after the recession," he said.
State Farm's announcement came a day after Chrysler announced its adding 1,800 workers to a staff of 2,700 at its plant in Belvidere, just east of Rockford. The automaker was in bankruptcy as recently as 2009, but said this week that 2011 was its first profitable year since 1997.