Illinois adds 19,600 jobs in February, still missing 178,300 jobs from pandemic

Illinois adds 19,600 jobs in February, still missing 178,300 jobs from pandemic

Illinois’ employment recovery continued in February, but the state is still missing 21% of the jobs it lost in early 2020

Illinois added 19,600 jobs from mid-January through mid-February, marking the ninth consecutive month of job gains, but the state still lags the nation’s recovery and suffers the highest unemployment rate in the Midwest at nearly 5%.

January jobs growth was also revised upward to show gains of 10,800 instead of the 8,600 jobs originally estimated, according to data released March 25 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Virtually all industries experienced job gains during the month. The largest gains came from the trade, transportation and utilities sector, which added 8,300 jobs.

Manufacturing added 4,800 jobs; leisure and hospitality payrolls also grew by 4,800; educational and health services expanded by 4,300; the information sector added 600 jobs; other services gained 300 jobs; construction payrolls increased by 200; and government added 100 positions. Mining payrolls remained unchanged.

Two industries lost jobs during the month. Financial activities shed 400 jobs while professional and business services payrolls declined by 3,400.

Fortunately for the professional and business services industry, the sector is one of the only to recover pandemic-related job losses. Illinois is still missing 178,300 jobs across all industries relative to the state’s pre-pandemic peak in January 2020, 21% of the jobs lost from January-April 2020.

Leisure and hospitality payrolls are down the most in Illinois since before the pandemic. Leisure and hospitality is still missing 77,000 jobs, which represents 37% of the state’s missing jobs. Educational and health services is missing 41,600 jobs and government is down 41,200 since January 2020.

Illinois’ laggard recovery and high number of missing jobs has 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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