-By Warner Todd Huston
On Monday the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that, contrary to Governor Quinn’s rosy statements, Illinois has lost jobs over the last year. In fact job numbers are worse than they’ve been in 35 years.
Earlier in August, as he stumped for re-election, Gov. Quinn made a big show of the fact that unemployment has fallen in the Land of Lincoln. The federal government reported that the unemployment rate fell to 6.8 percent, the lowest level since August of 2008 when it was 6.7 percent.
Announcing the news, Quinn said, “Putting people back to work is my number one priority. There are more people working now than when I took office and today’s good news shows that we are headed in the right direction.”
Quinn’s Republican opponent, businessman Bruce Rauner, noted that this is not the great news that Quinn is claiming it to be.
“Celebrating today’s job numbers is like cheering a touchdown when you’re down 35 points with two minutes left,” campaign spokesman Mike Schrimpf said.
“Our state is still down thousands of jobs since the beginning of the year, we still have one of the worst unemployment rates in the entire country and thousands of Illinoisans have given up looking for work. On top of higher taxes, this means too many families continue to suffer under Pat Quinn. Thankfully, Pat Quinn’s time is almost up and his term in office can’t end soon enough for the working people of Illinois.”
Rauner may be closer to the truth than Quinn. BLS numbers show that Illinois leads the Midwest in job loss.
The numbers show that every state around Illinois gained jobs while Illinois lost. Indiana gained 26,000 jobs, Missouri gained 31,000, Wisconsin is up 11,000, and Iowa is up 6,000 jobs. On the other hand, Illinois is down 4,200 jobs.
So, what accounts for the falling unemployment rate?
Two things: people moving out of Illinois and workers simply giving up and leaving the work force are causing those numbers to fall.
Gary Burtless, a senior fellow of economic studies at the Brookings Institute and a former economist with the U.S. Department of Labor, recently told the Illinois Watchdog, that just looking at the unemployment rate alone is misleading
“While a big drop in unemployment may look good on the outside, we know that’s not the whole picture,” Burtless said. “The unemployment statistics can only measure those who are working or actively looking for work. It can’t tell us anything about those who quit trying.”
Burtless said people usually quit trying to find work out of frustration with the job market, that they can’t get something satisfactory in a reasonable period of time.
“Illinois has mirrored the country as a whole in this regard,” he said. “The rate may technically be going down, but that doesn’t mean more people are working.”
Numbers show that there were 17,157 fewer people in the Illinois workforce than just in June. This is due to people moving out of Illinois as well as people giving up looking for work and falling out of the active job seekers numbers.
About the only bright spot in the state is the city of Rockford, situated about 90 miles north west of Chicago. Air travel company AAR Corp., for instance, is opening a new maintenance and repair facility in Rockford creating some 500 new jobs over the next five years. Rockford has also become a nation-wide hub for the aerospace industry bringing jobs to the area.
But this small bright spot does not make up for the loss the rest of the state is experiencing.