URBANA — The University of Illinois flash index showed strong growth in the Illinois economy in April, with large increases in the index the last two months.
The index, which jumped from 99.2 in February to 101 in March, rose to 101.9 in April, according to the UI's Institute of Government and Public Affairs.
A UI news release said those increases signified "the first sign of economic expansion after 3- 1/2 years of contraction."
UI economist J. Fred Giertz, who compiles the index, said the state economy is "clearly improving" with the unemployment rate falling to 8.8 percent in March.
But Giertz said the economy is recovering much slower than it has in past recessions.
It took longer for the flash index to reach the 100 level after the 2007-09 recession than it did after the previous three recessions, he said.
The 100 level is considered the dividing point between economic contraction and expansion.
The flash index is a weighted average of Illinois growth rates in corporate earnings, consumer spending and personal income.
In April, all three components of the index — individual income tax, corporate tax and sales tax receipts — were up strongly compared with April 2011, when adjusted for inflation.
Giertz said both individual income and corporate tax receipts were "extremely high" for April.
It's likely a reflection of high final payments when tax returns were filed this spring because too little was withheld after the 2011 state tax increase, he said.