Unemployment claims exceed 1.15 million as Illinois heads into 10th week of lockdown

Unemployment claims exceed 1.15 million as Illinois heads into 10th week of lockdown

Nearly 1 in 4 Illinoisans find themselves out of work, more than all border states except Kentucky.

An additional 58,359 Illinoisans filed for unemployment the week ending May 16, bringing total new jobless claims to 1,153,839 since COVID-19 began shutting down the economy, new U.S. Department of Labor data shows.

The surge in claims during the initial closure of the state’s economy appears to have slowed, however new weekly unemployment claims continue to be several times greater than the same period last year.

With over 1.15 million Illinoisans filing unemployment claims since COVID-19 began affecting the economy, the state’s estimated real-time unemployment rate now tops 23%. However, this is likely an underrepresentation, as it does not include those who have stopped looking for work during the crisis. When you add those who have dropped out of the labor force – many of whom are likely not being counted due to mismanagement of the unemployment application system – the estimated unemployment rate would have been nearly 26%.

Illinois’ estimated unemployment rate of 23.1% is 43% higher than Missouri’s rate of 16.1%, and also higher than Iowa (16.2%), Wisconsin (20.7%) and Indiana (22.8%). Of Illinois’ border states, only Kentucky, with an estimated unemployment rate of 32.8%, surpasses Illinois.

Illinois families cannot afford to be out of work for an extended period of time. Many are still waiting to have their unemployment claims processed and have little to no savings to feed themselves or cover other expenses. Other countries and other U.S. states are beginning to phase in the re-opening of their economies.

Business and consumer confidence are a cheap form of stimulus. Pritzker now has an outline of a plan, but Illinoisans need more detail for it to provide the certainty needed to make economic decisions.

State lawmakers need to do their part to minimize uncertainty by voting to remove the progressive income tax from the Nov. 3 ballot, which they can do by supporting House Joint Resolution 123. If passed, that tax hike will hit more than 100,000 small businesses – the state’s most prolific job creators – just as they are trying to recover from the COVID-19 recession.

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