Illinois’ labor-force participation rate hits new 35-year low, according to new federal jobs numbers

September 19, 2014

Today, complete data showing Illinois’ unemployment levels were released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The new data show the state’s economy is still struggling since the recession, and tens of thousands of the unemployed have stopped looking for work.

On Thursday, Sept. 18, the Illinois Department of Employment Security, or IDES, released preliminary, but incomplete, data on Illinois’ unemployment rate that showed the state’s jobless rate dropping to 6.7 percent. August saw an increase of 13,800 payroll jobs in the state. However, the number of people employed in Illinois fell by 7,000, and an additional 12,000 unemployed Illinoisans stopped looking for a job in August and dropped out of the labor force. Overall, Illinois’ unemployment-rate decrease was caused by people leaving the labor force.

Arguments that new retirees and students returning to school are driving Illinois’ plummeting workforce participation rates are not true. New data show employment for Illinois workers 55 and older is actually near its highest rate in a decade, while working-age and youth employment rates have collapsed throughout the recession and recovery in the state.

The nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute’s Director of Jobs and Growth, Michael Lucci, issued the following statement on today’s jobless data:

“While August saw 13,800 Illinoisans added to payrolls, the state’s economy is still not moving in the right direction. The share of our state’s population who are successfully looking for work is at a new 35-year low, and every day more unemployed people are becoming discouraged and ending their job search,” Lucci said. “The sole reason August’s unemployment rate dropped is because 19,000 people dropped out of the labor force. Not discussing or acknowledging the state’s complete jobs picture is misleading.”

Below are the findings released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics today:

  • Illinois’ labor-force participation rate is at a 35-year low. This represents the percentage of people currently working or looking for work out of the entire adult population.
  • In August alone, Illinois’ workforce shrank by 19,000 people, which accounts for the entire drop in the monthly unemployment rate. When people drop out of the workforce, the state unemployment rate goes down because people no longer looking for work are no longer counted as unemployed.
  • Illinois has nearly 300,000 fewer people working today than before the recession began in January 2008.

TAGS: Chicago, federal, jobs