The Illinois Department of Employment Security is a poorly named organization. In the current economy, it presides over a state that is a national champion at employment Insecurity.
A recent news release from IDES tries to put a positive spin on continuing unpleasant news, with the headline: “Illinois Adds 12,400 Jobs in February: Job Growth Encourages More People to Look for Work.”
The reality is that Illinois’ unemployment rate rose from 9.0% to 9.5% from January to February, while the USA as a whole saw unemployment fall from 7.9% to 7.7% in the same period.
No matter how you spin it, the country as a whole is enjoying a small increment of falling unemployment, while Illinois is suffering from increasing unemployment. (This table published by the Illinois Policy Institute shows nationwide unemployment rates against Illinois rates.)
The trend is manifestly not our friend in Illinois. Why not? Why is the rest of the country doing better?
Imagine you are going to expand or open a business, and hire new employees. Would you rather do that in Illinois—or in Indiana, or Wisconsin, or somewhere even farther away?
Business CEOs were surveyed last year to determine which states were best for business. Factors they considered included taxes and regulation, quality of workforce, and living environment. Illinois was 48th out of 50. Wisconsin was ranked at 20, and Indiana was ranked at 5!
More recently, Illinois had an overall rating of 45 out of 50 in the Freedom in the 50 States survey, from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Illinois performed particularly poorly on regulatory policy, coming in at 47. Wisconsin was ranked 38 overall, and Indiana was ranked at 15.
It is a tribute to the tenacity of the people of Illinois that employment is expanding at all.
The long-term goal of the Illinois Opportunity Project is to make Illinois number one in job growth, nationwide. Matching the national average for job growth is a milestone we are going to have to pass. It didn’t happen in February, 2013.
Making Illinois competitive with its next-door neighbors would be a step in the right direction.
We have a long way to go.