Lawrence J. McQuillan, PhD
Illinois’ July unemployment rate hit 8.9 percent, up from
8.7 percent in June, the second consecutive monthly increase. Thirty-nine
states have a lower unemployment rate than Illinois.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Illinois’
labor force is roughly 6.5 million people. More than half a million of them are
unemployed. This is a human tragedy as people struggle to keep a roof over
their head and food on the table. It’s also an economic tragedy as human
capital sits idle, failing to contribute to the economy.
For Illinois’ unemployment rate to fall to its 2000-2007
pre-recession low of 4.4 percent, businesses in the state need to employ nearly
300,000 more people net. During the past 12 months, new net employment averaged
about 7,000 each month.
That means it will take 43 months for Illinois’ unemployment
rate to recover to its pre-recession low given the current pace of job creation,
assuming no growth in the labor force (see graphic). If you’re unemployed, ask
yourself: will I have to wait four years to get a job in Illinois?
by Lawrence J. McQuillan and John H. Klingner using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
that the unemployment rate hasn’t been falling more quickly than what we are
accustomed to in previous recoveries,” Illinois Department of Employment Security
spokesman Greg Rivara said. “But as we have said for more than three years now,
this was not a typical recession, and this is not going to be a typical
But the recession excuse is wearing thin after more than
three years, especially given the experience of other states.
As the graphic shows, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Nebraska
are on pace to return to their pre-recession unemployment lows
in less than a year – North Dakota in two months! Texas is on pace to recover
in only 16 months.
Granted most of these are oil-producing states, but Illinois
doesn’t compare well to non-oil, cold weather states such as Pennsylvania, Utah
or Montana. These states will recover in almost
half the time as Illinois. Why shouldn’t Illinois be a top-10 state?
Illinoisans are rightly losing patience. Nobody wants to
wait another four years for a job. Instead people will pick up and leave. They already
are: one person leaves Illinois on net every 10 minutes. The exodus will quicken if Illinois lawmakers don’t enact
policies that promote entrepreneurship and job creation.
It’s time for Illinois officials to stop playing the recession
card and start taking responsibility for the policy failures that are
prolonging Illinois’ slump. It’s true the recession hurt Illinois’ economy, but
every state was impacted by the downturn. Now we’re seeing some states doing
quite well and approaching pre-recession levels of economic performance. Not
There’s no reason Illinois can’t join these states. The
first step is to fix nagging tax and debt problems that are chasing people and
investments away, beginning with repealing the 2011 income tax hikes and adopting
401(k)s to help fix the $209 billion state pension fiasco.