Only 1 Illinois metro area fully recovered its pandemic-related job losses
Bloomington is the only metro area to recover jobs lost during the COVID-19 pandemic and statewide mandated shutdowns. Illinois is still missing 200,100 jobs as of January 2020.
Nearly all metropolitan areas located at least partially within Illinois are still missing jobs two years after Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s COVID-19 mandates shut down the Illinois economy.
Statewide payrolls have only regained 76% of the jobs lost during the first months of the pandemic, one of the lowest rates in the nation. There are still 200,100 jobs missing statewide, but those losses hurt some metro areas more than others.
According to data released March 18 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, every metropolitan area except for Bloomington is still missing jobs compared to pre-pandemic peaks. The Springfield and Carbondale-Marion metro areas are approaching a full employment recovery, now having recouped 96% and 90% of job losses felt in early 2020.
Some metropolitan area are on the brink of an employment recovery, but most Illinois areas remain far from fixed. While Lake County-Kenosha County, Cape Girardeau, Elgin, St. Louis and the Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights metro areas have recovered more than the statewide average, they are each still missing 13-23% of the jobs lost during the pandemic.
Peoria, Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, Rockford, Champaign-Urbana, Decatur and Danville are trailing the state recovery. Those areas have only recouped 50-75% of their early 2020 job losses. Kankakee continues to suffer the most from pandemic and state mandate-related job losses, having only recouped 33% of jobs.
The sluggish recovery in Illinois left the state missing 200,100 jobs when compared to pre-pandemic levels according to preliminary January 2022 estimates. The missing jobs vary widely from community to community, with the least recovered areas typically missing the greatest share of their jobs. The state’s largest communities are missing the most jobs when measured in raw numbers.
The Chicagoland area is missing 125,900 jobs, nearly two-thirds of the state total, but is only missing 3.3% of the jobs from its pre-pandemic levels. Kankakee would appear to be a small contributor to the state’s total missing jobs, being out only 4,100 jobs since early 2020. It is actually missing 8.8% of the jobs lost since the pandemic began, the largest percentage in Illinois.
While it is clear Illinois’ uneven 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 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.