Illinois jobs report: 18,100 more jobs in February, but Illinois’ highest unemployment rate in region continues to rise

March 28, 2016

Illinois’ labor force has been expanding, but the state's economy has not been producing enough work opportunities for those entering the workforce.

CHICAGO (March 25, 2016) – Illinois gained 18,100 jobs in February according to the economic data released today by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS. This jobs gain was the best in the region for the month and has symbolic importance because it puts Illinois back on par with its jobs count from January 2008, before the Great Recession began. However, before February, Illinois was one of only two states in the region to still have fewer jobs compared to before the Great Recession began. Now, only Missouri has fewer jobs today than it had before the Great Recession began.

The data also show another up tick for the state’s unemployment rate, with the number of unemployed Illinoisans increasing for the seventh month in a row. While Illinois’ labor force has been expanding, the state’s economy has not been producing enough work opportunities for those entering the workforce, which has caused the unemployment rate to increase. The unemployment rate has risen from a low of 5.8 percent in July 2015 to 6.4 percent in February 2016. This gives Illinois the highest unemployment rate in the Midwest and compares poorly to a 4.9 percent national unemployment rate.

“February’s strong jobs gain has symbolic importance because it finally puts Illinois back to the same jobs count as before the Great Recession began. However, Illinois’ economy was second-to-last in the region to regain pre-recession jobs levels and has been moving too slowly for too long. The BLS numbers also show that more Illinoisans are entering the workforce, but far too many of them are unable to find work,” said Michael Lucci, vice president of policy at the Illinois Policy Institute. “Even though Illinois has now recovered the number of jobs that were lost during the Great Recession, it’s also important to note that the jobs that have returned are not the same as the ones that were lost. Compared to pre-recession levels in January 2008, Illinois has 90,000 fewer manufacturing jobs, and 50,000 more jobs in leisure and hospitality. This reflects a loss of higher-paying, working-class jobs, some of which are replaced by lower-paying service jobs. The need for industrial policy reforms is just as urgent today as ever, along with continued improvement in overall jobs and economic growth.”

Key numbers from today’s BLS report include:

  • Illinois’ unemployment rate for February rose to 6.4 percent. The number of unemployed people in Illinois increased by 7,700 in February 2016 and has gone up by 44,500 in the last seven months.
  • Illinois’ unemployment rate is the highest of surrounding states
    • Illinois: 6.4 percent
    • Indiana: 4.7 percent
    • Iowa: 3.7 percent
    • Kentucky: 5.8 percent
    • Michigan: 4.8 percent
    • Minnesota: 3.7 percent
    • Missouri: 4.2 percent
    • Ohio: 4.9 percent
    • Wisconsin: 4.6 percent
  • February jobs growth for neighboring and Great Lakes states:
    • Illinois gained 18,100 jobs
    • Indiana gained 7,400 jobs
    • Iowa lost 6,200 jobs
    • Kentucky gained 400 jobs
    • Michigan gained 5,500 jobs
    • Minnesota gained 9,000 jobs
    • Missouri gained 9,400 jobs
    • Ohio gained 12,400 jobs
    • Wisconsin gained 7,200 jobs
  • Illinois added 3,500 manufacturing jobs in February, a welcome gain after Illinois lost 6,200 manufacturing jobs in 2015, the worst manufacturing job loss of any state in the region.

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