Illinois has not had a net gain in private-sector job opportunities in nearly
17 years. In January 2000, Illinois had 5,176,800 private-sector jobs. As of
March 2016, the most recent month of Bureau of Labor Statistics data, Illinois
had just 5,175,900 private-sector jobs.
This analysis doesn’t change much with government jobs factored in because
overall government payrolls have barely budged over the same time period.
Besides, the private sector creates the entirety of economic output and the
lion’s share of employment opportunities, and the private sector is in need of
relief from taxes, red tape and other government-imposed roadblocks in Illinois.
Hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans have been left idle as economic opportunity
has bypassed the state, and hundreds of thousands more have headed to states
that are richer in opportunity. Dozens of other states with less red tape, lower
taxes and more jobs growth have been gaining residents from Illinois.
Illinois’ labor market has cycled with national trends, but with greater job
losses during recessions and weaker job gains during economic expansions. In
other words, Illinois falls harder and faster than other states, and climbs back
slower when it’s regaining jobs. Earlier in 2016, Illinois became the
second-to-last state in the Midwest to break even on its jobs count for the
recession era, and the fact that Illinois has finally recovered its jobs lost in
the last recession could be an indicator that the next recession is on its
way.illinois job growth
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It is unacceptable for Illinois to have gained zero jobs during
the first decade and a half of the 2000s. And it’s a dereliction of
duty for lawmakers to have put such little effort into reforms that
would create opportunities for Illinoisans. There are only three
other states down in private-sector jobs in the 21st century:
Michigan, Ohio and Mississippi.
And since each state’s bottom in the Great Recession, Michigan
and Ohio, with the help of tax cuts, policy reforms and a federal
bail-out of big auto companies, have outperformed Illinois for jobs
growth, while Illinois has outpaced only Mississippi in regaining
jobs since the recession ended.illinois job growth
With or without federal help, Ohio and Michigan are on their way to
rebuilding their industrial sectors through economic rebalancing and
policy reforms. Illinois would do well to follow the path of reform,
and to lift the long-term debt hanging over taxpayers and
threatening to squash any economic growth.
The major problem in Springfield is the lack of a robust, bipartisan
discussion of reform to allow Illinois’ private sector to rise
again. Such a discussion, along with a legislative agenda geared
toward jobs growth, is long overdue.
After months of political wrangling, Illinois’ political leaders
should finally focus on Illinois residents’ most pressing economic
need: more job opportunities. The urgency of reform on this front
cannot be overstated in light of the sad fact that Illinois has zero
net private-sector jobs growth 16 years into the 21st century.
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