Pennsylvania close to passing Illinois as 5th-largest state in U.S. for jobs and population
Unlike Illinois, Pennsylvania has actually recovered the number of jobs it lost during the Great Recession, and now has 40,000 more jobs than it had at its pre-recession peak. Illinois, on the other hand, still has 90,000 fewer jobs than it had before the recession, the worst jobs recovery in the U.S.
Here’s a goal that all Illinoisans should support: Don’t get passed by Pennsylvania.
In the wake of Illinois’ year of job losses and two consecutive years of shrinking population, Pennsylvania is gaining on the Land of Lincoln to once again become the fifth-largest state in the U.S. by jobs count and population count. This is despite the fact that Pennsylvania has below-average growth for both jobs and population.
Illinois had 170,000 more jobs than Pennsylvania in January 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But as of December 2015, Illinois had only 40,000 more jobs than Pennsylvania. And the Keystone State has been slowly closing in with 38,000 net jobs gained in 2015, during which time Illinois lost 3,000 jobs on net.
Unlike Illinois, Pennsylvania has actually recovered the number of jobs it lost during the Great Recession, and now has 40,000 more jobs than it had at its pre-recession peak. Illinois, on the other hand, still has 90,000 fewer jobs than it had before the Great Recession, the worst jobs recovery in the U.S.
As of December 2015, the difference in the jobs count between Illinois and Pennsylvania was only 40,000. If the 2015 jobs story repeats for both states in 2016, Pennsylvania will pass Illinois for total jobs within the next year.
Illinois also had 16,000 more manufacturing jobs than Pennsylvania before the recession, but as of December 2015, the two states were essentially tied. Neither state has had a robust recovery for factory work, though Pennsylvania surpassed Illinois for total manufacturing jobs: 567,200 to 567,000 as of the end of 2015.
Pennsylvania is also closing in on Illinois for total population. As of 2010, Illinois had 130,000 more people than Pennsylvania. But with two years of net population losses in Illinois, Pennsylvania is now closing in. As of July 2015, Illinois had only 57,000 more people than Pennsylvania. At the current pace, Pennsylvania will have more people than Illinois by 2020.
What’s striking about Illinois’ relative loss is that Pennsylvania is barely growing. In fact, jobs growth in the Keystone State has trended below the national average, with the U.S. jobs count up 10 percent since the recession bottom, compared with only 5 percent in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is also a net loser on state-to-state migration, with annual net losses of between 10,000 and 40,000 people to other states since 2010. But Pennsylvania’s population-loss problem is still not as severe as Illinois’: the Land of Lincoln lost 105,000 residents on net to other states between July 2014 and July 2015.
Holding on to No. 5 in jobs and population should be a matter of state pride for Illinoisans. But Illinois’ state government holds back its population through anti-growth policies that drive away jobs and residents.
The policy discussion in Illinois should focus on economic growth first and foremost. Illinois can and should be able to achieve better growth than states such as Pennsylvania and neighbors such as Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin – but it needs reforms to make that happen.
In his State of the State address, Gov. Bruce Rauner focused on reforms to help the state’s economy and provide better value for its taxpayers. These reforms include: property-tax reform, workers’ compensation reform, local government control, school choice, government procurement reform, and technology and administrative reform.
Rauner’s opponents in the General Assembly are not yet on board with his reform agenda. But they should have to answer for the status quo and explain their plan to help Illinois’ jobs and population grow.
Pennsylvania’s growth is only in first gear, but Illinois has the car stuck in reverse. And every day without pro-growth reform is another step back that could end with Illinois ceding its place as the nation’s fifth-largest state.