Illinois adds 18,300 jobs in March, still missing 154,500 from pandemic

Illinois adds 18,300 jobs in March, still missing 154,500 from pandemic

Illinois’ employment recovery continued in March, but the state is still missing one in five jobs lost during the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic downturn and state restrictions.

Illinois added 18,300 jobs from mid-February through mid-March, marking the 10th consecutive month of job gains, but the state’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.8% – still the highest in the Midwest.

February job growth was also revised to show gains of 25,100, rather than the 19,600 originally estimated, according to new data released April 15 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Nearly all major industries experienced job gains during the month. The largest came from the professional and business services sector, which grew payrolls by 9,700 during the month.

Financial activities added 3,800 jobs; leisure and hospitality grew payrolls by 3,500; the information sector added 2,500 positions; educational and health services accumulated an additional 2,000 jobs; manufacturing added 1,000 jobs; construction gained 400 jobs; and government payrolls expanded by 200.

There were several industries that shed jobs during the month. Mining lost 100 jobs; other services payrolls declined by 1,200; and trade, transportation and utilities lost 3,500 jobs during March.

The large job losses in the trade, transportation and utilities sector come on the heels of last month’s jobs report, which estimated the industry experienced the most job gains in February.

Despite continued growth in payrolls as a whole, Illinois is still missing 154,500 jobs relative to pre-pandemic levels, with the missing jobs being spread across nearly every industry.

Leisure and hospitality payrolls remain down the most, missing 72,700 jobs and accounting for 37% of the state’s total missing jobs. The government and educational and health services sectors are also missing about 40,000 jobs each; manufacturing and other services payrolls are still down nearly 15,000 jobs each; construction is missing 8,200 positions; financial activities payrolls are 4,300 below pre-pandemic levels; and the mining sector is still missing 1,100 jobs.

Meanwhile, the information sector has regained the jobs lost in early 2020, while trade, transportation and utilities payrolls are higher by 14,100 and professional and business services have added 28,700 jobs since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Illinois’ laggard recovery and high number of missing jobs have left the state with one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. The state’s 4.8% unemployment rate is highest in the Midwest.

While it is clear Illinois’ employment recovery severely lags the rest of the nation, what is far less clear is how the state can ever catch up. More than one-third of the workers who are still missing from Illinois’ workforce have likely retired. Making matters worse for Illinois, a record exodus driving population decline threatens to prevent the state’s economy from ever returning to pre-pandemic employment levels.

The first step to stop the bleeding and reverse the state’s current trajectory will be for voters to take a hard look at Amendment 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot.  Amendment 1 would change the Illinois Constitution to grant unions in Illinois more extreme powers than they have in any other state, including the ability to bargain over virtually limitless subjects, the ability to override state law through their contracts, and a guarantee that taxpayers and lawmakers would have an extremely difficult time reversing course.

Should Amendment 1 pass, Illinois’ $317 billion pension debt will continue to balloon as state and local taxes, which are already among the highest in the nation, rise in an attempt to keep up. Spending on vital programs will continue to fall. Illinois’ housing and labor markets are already suffering as high taxes and reduced services make finding a job and living in the state tenuous.

Illinois needs reform that will control the state’s cost drivers and deliver the services taxpayers expect for their dollars. Amendment 1 ensures those challenges will increase.

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