Illinois saw slowest jobs growth since Blagojevich’s term

January 28, 2020

State of the State 2020: Illinois jobs grew at half the rate of the rest of the nation

CHICAGO (Jan. 28, 2020) – 2019 marked the slowest jobs growth during the first year of any elected Illinois governor’s term since Rod Blagojevich in 2007. Original analysis by the nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute found the state lagged the nation in 8 of 11 industries and actually experienced job losses in almost half of all job sectors.

Illinois increased jobs by 0.7% overall in 2019, according to data released by the Illinois Department of Employment Security and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In comparison, Bruce Rauner saw 1.4% growth in 2015, Pat Quinn saw 1.1% growth in 2011 and Blagojevich saw 0.5% in 2007.

These findings come as Gov. J.B. Pritzker is poised to deliver his State of the State address tomorrow.

As the governor lays out plans for the state, researchers warn that the state’s history of record spending has failed to improve its economy for residents, taxpayers and job seekers.

Analysis highlights:


  • Overall, Illinois added 45,000 jobs in 2019. This is an increase of 0.7% – the slowest rate in the first year of any Illinois governor’s term since Gov. Blagojevich.
  • The state’s recent declining unemployment rate is due to more people dropping out of the workforce than finding jobs. It still ended the year with an unemployment rate higher than the national average or most neighboring states.


  • Illinois has increased per capita total state spending by 46% since 2000, or 35% faster than the national average.
  • State spending has grown far faster than personal incomes. Per capita personal income in Illinois has only grown by 18% since 2000. That’s 21% slower than the national average and among the bottom 10 states nationally.


  • During the year, state pension debt grew by $5.1 billion to $136.8 billion from $131.7 billion.
  • Since Illinois hiked taxes in 2011, its total debt has more than quadrupled to $189.1 billion from $43.6 billion.

Orphe Divounguy, chief economist at the nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute offered the following statement:

“During the governor’s first year in office, Illinois taxpayers saw 20 tax and fee hikes to pay for the most expensive budget in state history; nearly 30 lawmakers, businesses and political figures tied to instances of corruption; a minimum wage hike; and a major lawmaker lobbying effort that put a potential middle-class income tax hike on the November ballot.

“He failed to learn from past mistakes. As a result, we can expect more of the same. The state faces lagging economic performance, a struggling job market and population loss spurred by 105,000 residents moving away.

“It’s not about partisan wins or losses: it’s about ensuring the future of Illinois is headed down the right path. Corruption and the misallocation of public funds during the past 20 years has wreaked havoc on the state’s economy.

“We expect these economic outcomes to continue if lawmakers commit to the same poor policy choices that make Illinois less competitive and make it more difficult for people and businesses to thrive.

“Illinois needs a more efficient government – that means rooting out corruption and addressing a looming pensions crisis.”

To read the full analysis, visit

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