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Illinois the lone Great Lakes state to lose manufacturing jobs; overall Illinois job creation lowest in region

The first eight months of 2015 signal another year of poor job creation for Illinois, according to new monthly data released Sept. 18 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS. According to BLS, Illinois has added only 13,400 payroll jobs so far this year, fewer than any neighboring state despite the fact that Illinois is the most populous state in the region. Illinois also has the highest unemployment rate in the region at 5.6 percent, although the reliability of this indicator has diminished as more people have dropped out of the workforce altogether.

Iowa has created more jobs from January through August 2015 than Illinois has despite having less than a quarter of Illinois’ population. Missouri and Wisconsin have half as many residents as Illinois, but both have created twice as many jobs as Illinois has this year. The Hoosier State also has a population half the size of Illinois’ and has created three times as many jobs as has the Land of Lincoln. Michigan’s jobs growth is nearly four times that of Illinois’ from January through August 2015.

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Illinois’ economic weak spot remains jobs growth in the manufacturing sector. In August, Illinois lost another 2,200 manufacturing jobs, resulting in a cumulative loss of 10,000 production jobs for the first eight months of 2015. Meanwhile, the other four Great Lakes manufacturing states have added a combined 31,400 manufacturing jobs in 2015.

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Illinois’ manufacturing losses this year are part of a longer-term trend. Of the Great Lakes manufacturing states, only the Land of Lincoln lost factory jobs over the last three years. While Illinois shed nearly 14,000 manufacturing jobs between August 2012 and August 2015, the other four Great Lakes manufacturing states have added a combined 137,000 factory jobs in the same time period.

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Trends in manufacturing are especially revealing from a policy perspective because that sector bears the brunt of many of the state’s most harmful economic and legal policies. For example, workers’ compensation costs are higher for manufacturing than for most other industries and influence decisions on whether to locate production facilities in Illinois. Property taxes concern all homeowners, but they also affect property-intensive industries like manufacturing. Perhaps most importantly, manufacturing provides high-paying employment for people who don’t go to college – a majority of Illinoisans – but manufacturing opportunities in Illinois dwindle month after month.

The problems in manufacturing demonstrate the need for policy improvements across the board, from workers’ compensation reform to changes to the education system that would prepare students who like working with their hands for hands-on careers in manufacturing.

Politicians who work the current system to benefit themselves and their constituencies have sold out these industries and workers. Whether trial lawyers or union bosses, the special interests who set the agenda in Springfield aren’t looking out for the good of Illinoisans such as those 300,000 manufacturing workers who have lost their jobs since 2000. These blue-collar job losses and the lack of new opportunities in manufacturing are the unfortunate byproduct of Illinois’ policy failures and political dysfunction.

NEXT ARTICLE: Level of long-term unemployment in Illinois among highest in U.S.

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