Illinois has second-highest unemployment rate in nation

August 20 2013

Illinois has the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation, a rank the state has held for five months now, behind only the state of Nevada.

Illinois’ unemployment rate rose to 9.2 percent in July, up from 9.1 percent in June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS.

Today’s BLS release highlights how poorly Illinois is faring compared with its neighbors and the nation as a whole. The national unemployment rate is 7.4 percent, and Illinois’ neighbors have an average unemployment rate just below that at 7.3 percent.

If Illinois could reach its neighbors’ average unemployment rate, more than 125,000 fewer Illinoisans would be unemployed.

But Illinoisans know it’s not just those out of work who are suffering: many breadwinners are stuck working part-time, although they want and need a full-time job.

That’s why BLS tracks several unemployment figures, including the broadest measure of worker unemployment called U-6. The U-6 rate includes not just the unemployed, but also people working part time while seeking full-time work, as well as unemployed people who haven’t looked for work in the past four months but have sought employment in the past year. Illinois’ most recent U-6 unemployment rate is 16.1 percent, meaning more than 1 million Illinoisans are unemployed or underemployed.

Illinois’ neighbors, on the other hand, have a U-6 rate of 13 percent. If Illinois could reach its neighbors average, more than 200,000 fewer Illinoisans would be unemployed or underemployed.

The best way for Illinois to compete with its neighbors and bring jobs back is to foster a pro-business environment. Illinois can do that by lowering its corporate income tax rate to encourage business investment, reducing onerous and costly regulations that stifle entrepreneurship and passing labor reforms to make Illinois a more attractive business destination.

Enacting these polices would go a long way toward making Illinois a competitive state and putting Illinoisans back to work.