Nearly half of unemployed people in Illinois have given up on finding work

MAY 12, 2017
A new survey from Harris Poll for Express Employment Professionals shows that nearly half of unemployed people in Illinois have given up looking for work.

Forty-four percent of unemployed Illinoisans have given up on finding a job, according to a new survey conducted by Harris Poll for Express Employment Professionals in March and April.

Though the Harris Poll survey indicated that fewer Americans have given up on searching for work in 2017 compared with 2016, Illinois is not following the same trend. The percentage of unemployed Illinoisans who have given up job searches is higher than it is among other states’ unemployed populations, according to the Chicago Tribune. The number of those who’ve given up looking for employment has steadily increased in Illinois since 2016, when it was 41 percent, and 2015, when the number was 33 percent, the Tribune reports.

The national numbers from Harris Poll show the country overall has improved, with only 33 percent of unemployed Americans giving up their job searches, down from 40 percent in 2016.

So why is Illinois worse off than the rest of the United States?

“Economic and political factors unique to Illinois may be at play here,” said Bob Funk, CEO of Express Employment Professionals, in a news release.

Patrick Dolan, who manages 16 Chicago-area Express Employment staffing franchises, pointed to the state’s litany of fiscal woes and uncompetitive laws. “Business owners know that we have massive unpaid bills in the state, so they start thinking tax hikes,” Dolan said, according to the Tribune.

Dolan isn’t wrong.

Illinois currently owes more than $12 billion on backlogged bills from various vendors for services already rendered, and has $130 billion in unfunded state pension debt. Illinois has a spending problem, yet rather than passing needed reforms, many in Springfield are looking to pass the costs onto residents and businesses. The Illinois Senate’s proposed “grand bargain” budget deal contains a bevy of new taxes and tax hike proposals, including increases to both state individual and corporate income taxes, which would provide further incentives to residents and businesses to leave the state.

And Illinoisans have several good reasons to seek opportunities elsewhere. Illinois’ personal income growth has lagged behind income growth in other states, including neighboring Indiana. From 2006 to 2016, personal income in Indiana grew by nearly 39 percent, while Illinois saw personal income growth of only 31.4 percent over the same period. Manufacturing jobs ̶ which often pay better than jobs in the service sector ̶ have also decreased in Illinois. From 2012 to 2016, Illinois lost 18,000 manufacturing jobs on net, while Indiana gained nearly 32,000.

Illinois residents are also getting slammed with some of the highest property taxes in the country, the seventh-highest combined state and average local sales taxnationwide, and one of the most expensive overall tax burdens in the United States. Illinois’ property taxes are 2.5 times higher than Indiana’s, and Illinois’ average combined sales tax is about 23 percent higher than that in Indiana, which does not have local sales taxes.

The Prairie State’s poor income growth and its massive tax burden make out-migration a no-brainer for many residents. From 2006 to 2015, Illinois lost more than 119,000residents on net to Indiana. It’s not hard to see why: Indiana residents have better opportunities in the well-paying manufacturing sector, higher income growth, and a much lower tax burden.

Springfield should learn from Indiana and put in place policies that reduce the number of people who have given up on finding work – and on Illinois.

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