Illinois metro unemployment rates still among worst in U.S.

Illinois metro unemployment rates still among worst in U.S.

While most Illinois metropolitan areas saw job gains last month, unemployment rates remain higher than the U.S. rate in 11 of the state’s 13 metro areas.

Illinois’ metropolitan areas continued to struggle with high unemployment rates in May, according to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Rates were higher in 11 of the 13 areas than the U.S. rate of 3.4%.

The Rockford metro area had the worst unemployment rate in the state at 5.9%. Decatur, Danville and Kankakee joined Rockford with rates of 5% or higher.

The Peoria, Carbondale-Marion, Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, Springfield, Champaign-Urbana, Chicago-Naperville-Elgin and Bloomington metro areas all had rates of 3.5% or higher, leaving them all worse than the national rate for May.

The only Illinois metro areas to beat the national rate were the St. Louis and Cape Girardeau areas, which are each primarily located in Missouri rather than Illinois. While Illinois had the 4th-worst unemployment rate in the nation at 4.1% in May, Missouri enjoyed one of the best rates in the nation at 2.5%.

Of Illinois’ 15 metropolitan areas, 11 gained jobs and only three lost them compared to April.

Rockford saw the largest decrease, losing 500 jobs. Elgin lost 300 jobs and Bloomington lost 100.

The Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights metropolitan area gained 2,800 jobs. The Lake County-Kenosha County area saw substantial gains, adding 2,300 jobs. Champaign-Urbana added 900 jobs, Peoria added 500 jobs, and Davenport-Moline-Rock Island gained 400 jobs. Carbondale-Marion, Kankakee, and Cape Girardeau each added 200 jobs. Danville, Decatur, and the St. Louis area each gained 100 jobs.

The Springfield area saw no change for the month.

Despite May’s overall gains, Illinois employment remains below where it stood prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Chicago area is still missing 16,400 jobs from January 2020, and the state as a whole is missing 15,700 jobs.

Illinois’ unemployment rate is one of the highest in the nation, at 4.1% – tied with Texas and Washington. Only four states were worse. During Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s first term in office, Illinois ranked in the bottom half of the nation for job growth across all 11 major job sectors. Those numbers would have been even worse had Pritzker succeeded in passing the “Fair Tax” Amendment in 2020, which would have cost 56,000 jobs by hiking taxes on businesses across Illinois.

While May jobs numbers are encouraging, Illinois remains ill-prepared for future recessions, with its budget weighed down by massive pension debt and high tax volatility, among other factors. The city of Chicago by itself has more pension debt than 44 entire states.

In order to keep growing the economy and creating jobs, Illinois must focus on strengthening its fiscal position, removing regulatory burdens, and providing real tax relief to workers and job creators.

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