Illinois missing nearly twice as many jobs as U.S.

Illinois missing nearly twice as many jobs as U.S.

Revisions show Illinois added 17,400 more jobs in 2021 than previously thought, but the state’s recovery still significantly lags the U.S. recovery rate.

Illinois is still missing 200,100 jobs relative to the state’s pre-pandemic peak, according to data released March 10 by the Illinois Department of Employment Security and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While Illinois is down 3.3%, the national economy was only missing 1.8% of jobs relative to before the pandemic in January 2022. Illinois is missing nearly twice as many jobs as the national economy, thanks to the decline in employment in early 2020 and lackluster employment recovery in the nearly two years since then. 

The pain isn’t just limited to certain sectors of the economy, either. Employment counts across virtually all major industries in Illinois lag the national average. The only industry where Illinois has performed better than the national average is “other services,” with payrolls down 5.1% versus 5.7% nationally.  

The gap is especially painful in the leisure and hospitality sector, where 42% of Illinois’ missing jobs come from. In that industry, Illinois’ payrolls are down 13.4% – 84,000 jobs – while U.S. payrolls are only down 10.1%. If Illinois’ leisure and hospitality sector had performed similarly to the rest of the nation, Illinois’ payroll for the industry would be nearly 21,000 jobs higher than it is today. 

Had all of Illinois’ industries experienced the same economic downturn and subsequent recovery as the national economy, Illinois would have 101,763 more jobs than it has today.

While the new data further highlights Illinois’ woes as the state’s employment recovery fails to keep up with the pace of the employment recovery nationwide, revisions to the 2021 data show jobs growth during the year was stronger than previously thought. 

Total employment growth was revised to show Illinois added 17,400 more jobs than originally estimated. 

The results by industry were much more mixed, with six of the state’s major industries seeing upward revisions to their jobs growth estimates and five major industries experiencing downward revisions. Among the most notable upward revisions were professional and business services, adding 20,700 more jobs than originally estimated; and financial activities, adding 700 jobs rather than losing 5,000 as originally estimated.  

Meanwhile, trade, transportation and utility jobs growth was revised down by 15,100 – more than 31% – and manufacturing payroll changes were shifted downward by 3,600, or roughly 42%.  

Despite an overall upward adjustment to the topline jobs figure, the new data makes it clear Illinois’ employment recovery remains severely behind 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 the 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 rein in the state’s cost drivers and deliver services to residents in exchange for their tax dollars. Amendment 1 ensures those challenges will increase. 

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