10 Illinois metro areas add jobs in February, 5 await pandemic recovery

10 Illinois metro areas add jobs in February, 5 await pandemic recovery

10 of the 13 Illinois metro areas added jobs from January 2024 to February 2024, led by the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin area. Five still reported fewer jobs than prior to the pandemic.

New data shows 10 of 13 Illinois metropolitan areas added jobs in February 2024, reporting an overall increase of 20,200 jobs statewide, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Bloomington metro area saw the largest percent increase in non-farm employment, growing 1.12% since January. Leading the losses was the Decatur area.

State employment growth slightly outpaced the national economy. Illinois reported 0.28% more jobs in February, compared to 0.17% growth nationwide.

Employment gains were most heavily concentrated in the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin metro, which added nearly 74 out of every 100 new jobs gained during the past month. One metro reported no change in employment from January.

The Chicago metro area’s rate of gains ranked seventh among Illinois metro areas from January 2024 to February 2024 and fifth among the 35 largest metro areas in the country.

Overall, 10 Illinois metro areas added jobs since February 2023 and eight reported higher employment than before the COVID-19 pandemic. Only one metro outperformed the U.S. job recovery rate: Bloomington at 6.9%, compared to 3.8% nationwide.

Illinois employment growth exceeded pre-pandemic levels but trailed behind the national economy, with the state adding 0.33% more jobs. Five areas continued to report fewer jobs than four years ago.

Illinois’ sluggish jobs recovery from the pandemic has been further complicated by population loss continuing to hit communities across the state. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows Illinois lost 32,826 residents in 2023, marking the state’s 10th consecutive year of population decline.

Historically, high taxes have been the No. 1 reason Illinoisans considered leaving the state. The Illinois Policy Institute’s Lincoln Poll in 2023 substantiated that reason.

Illinois’ state and local tax burden is the highest in the Midwest. Illinois also levies the second-highest state corporate income tax in the nation and the state’s tax code is among the least friendly for businesses in the Midwest.

Recent income tax hikes have already fostered an environment in Illinois that makes it harder for Illinoisans to find work and reduces wage growth prospects for those who are employed. Now Gov. J.B. Pritzker wants to cut $45 from each family of four’s state income tax exemption to balance his record $52.7 billion budget. Rising income and property taxes have made housing less affordable in Illinois and reduced returns on housing investment relative to other states.

If Illinois is to meet its potential, state leaders need to stop hamstringing the economy with high taxation and poor public policy. Illinois must focus on strengthening its fiscal positionremoving regulatory burdens, and providing real tax relief both to workers who are already finding it difficult to remain and to job creators who are desperately trying to stay.

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