Prairie State Wire

Prairie State Wire

Monday, October 14, 2019

Illinois continues to be black sheep of Midwest job growth


By Caitlin Nordahl | Aug 2, 2017

Illinois is adding only half of the number of jobs its neighbors are creating, according to a recent analysis from the Illinois Policy Institute. 

Austin Berg, the institute's director of content strategy, examined fiscal year 2017 data from the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) and found that at just 0.9 percent, Illinois was well below the Midwest's leading job producer, Kentucky, at 2 percent, and well behind the regional average of 1.8 percent. The national average for the time frame was 1.5 percent.

In fact, if it hadn't been for the "big shoulders" of Chicago carrying 1.2 percent of the new jobs, Illinois would have fared much worse, since the rest of the state added only 0.2 percent to the employment numbers.

IDES Director Jeff Mays |

"Illinois’ sickly economy doesn’t just show itself in poor jobs numbers, but in paychecks as well," Berg wrote on the institute's website. "The Land of Lincoln is home to the worst personal income growth in the United States over the Great Recession era."

Illinois' personal income growth is tied with Nevada for the lowest in the country, at 0.8 percent, according to data from the Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

“Illinois’ lawmakers have failed to pass the pro-growth reforms from which neighboring states are reaping benefits,” Berg wrote. “…Neighboring Wisconsin’s property taxes as a percentage of personal income are the lowest the state’s seen since the end of World War II. Illinois property taxes are nearly triple those in neighboring Indiana. But reforms to address the cost-drivers of Illinois property taxes have been stonewalled in the General Assembly.”

Berg also called for reforms to the state’s workers’ compensation system and reductions to the state income tax.

“Until lawmakers get serious about economic growth, don’t expect Illinois’ jobs trend to diverge from the weak path it’s been treading for years,” Berg wrote.

Berg pointed to numbers from Decatur as being particularly insightful into the economic woes of Illinois. Decatur did not register any job growth in the fiscal year covered.

“Decatur residents are in dire need of healthier incomes,” Berg wrote. "Even the hope of decent jobs growth would be a vast improvement. Instead, the tax hike will force the average Decatur resident to send $580 more each year to state government, according to the Decatur Herald & Review. That's money that could have been spent locally at struggling small businesses, put toward college savings or spent on household essentials. Instead, it will vanish into Springfield’s sinkhole of debt.”

In a press release, IDES Director Jeff Mays said Illinois metro areas continue to see a loss of labor force.

"Unemployment rates decreased over-the-year in June in all of Illinois’s metropolitan areas and all but two counties, according to data released today by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and IDES," he said in the release.

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