July 7, 2014
By Michael Lucci

This article was written by Lee Provost and featured in the Daily Journal on July 5, 2014. 

Only 500 private-sector jobs were created in Illinois — from August 2013 to May 2014 — the worst performance of any state in the Midwest and the second worst in the country, according to a conservative-leaning policy organization.

The Illinois Policy Institute also noted that since Jan. 1, the state has lost 26,300 jobs, the worst performance by far of any state. The state with the second-worst ranking is Alabama, and that southern state lost 2,700 jobs.

Concerning the Midwest and the nine-month period, Illinois ranked last among 12 states. Indiana was credited with adding 35,300 jobs. Ohio added 32,600; Wisconsin, 31,000; Minnesota, 33,200; and Missouri, 28,300.

“Think about it. That’s one job for every 300 high school graduates,” said Michael Lucci, director of jobs and growth for the policy institute. “That means kids who graduated this year will either be jobless or will be forced to leave this state. We prepare kids for the workforce, but there just aren’t opportunities for them.”

Even the Dakotas were better. North Dakota generated 15,000 new jobs, and South Dakota was able to add 1,500.

That’s right. South Dakota created more jobs than Illinois.

So why has the state’s unemployment rate dropped within the past couple months? Because so many people have fallen off the jobless benefits, Lucci explained.

“As people quit looking for jobs, they drop out of the workforce. They are no longer counted,” he said.

The spokesman for the Illinois Department of Employment Security declined comment but referred to a June 19 news release that stated the Illinois unemployment rate has dropped to its lowest level since November 2008.

May unemployment figures, the most-recent unemployment numbers released, showed that 99 of the state’s 102 counties jobless numbers declined.

Lucci countered that since January 2008, Illinois has lost 180,000 jobs.

Lucci said he chose the nine-month period of August to May simply because it coincided with the school year. But he said the state’s poor economic performance isn’t tied simply to those months.

“People move for opportunity. This state is not creating opportunity. Not just for graduates but for people of all ages,” he said.

Before the state can turn itself around in a significant way to help companies grow or attract new businesses, Illinois’ “real” problems must be addressed.

Chief among those issues are pension reform and eliminating personal and corporate income taxes by expanding the sales tax base.

Despite the bleak report, Lucci doesn’t see the state’s glass as half empty.

“Once some policies are fixed, we can rebound. Because Illinois has made policy errors, many issues that can be enacted to quickly change things.”

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