By Brady Cremeens -
SPRINGFIELD - Numbers released Monday in a monthly report on jobs and employment by Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest Illinois is doing poorly — despite two recent announcements from Gov. Quinn’s office highlighting a drop in unemployment and expansion of jobs in the Rockford area.
Last week, Gov. Quinn announced a significant decrease in the state’s unemployment rate, from 7.1 percent in June to 6.8 percent in July.
“Illinois’ comeback is going strong and we’ve got more work to do,” Quinn said in a statement. “Illinois manufacturers are helping to drive our economy forward by creating good jobs and supporting local communities across the state.”
The governor touted the 11,200 new private sector jobs added in July and said the news proves “that we are heading in the right direction.”
But the BLS report found that Illinois’ workforce decreased by 17,100 in July, a number that accounts for the drop in the unemployment rate. When discouraged people decide to leave the workforce — a statistical category that includes the employed and those actively in search of employment — the rate goes down. The unemployment rate only denotes the number of those working or searching, it says nothing of those having given up.
In fact, the BLS report states that Illinois’ labor force participation rate fell to a number lower than any point in the last 35 years due to Illinois residents giving up looking for jobs.
The report is coupled with today’s news that agricultural manufacturing giant John Deere is planning to lay off up to 600 workers at four facilities, two of which are in East Moline and Moline.
On Friday, INN spoke with Gary Burtless, a senior fellow of economic studies at the Brookings Institute and a former economist with the U.S. Department of Labor. He agreed that the unemployment rate drop is a combination of factors, including labor force depletion.
“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.”
According to the BLS report, Burtless is correct.
The report says there are 170,000 fewer jobs than before the 2008 recession, and the Prairie State has a net loss of nearly 6,000 private sector jobs so far in 2008.
It seems for every step forward toward job growth Illinois takes, two big steps backwards follows. Monday Gov. Quinn announced global aircraft service leader AAR Corp. is opening a new maintenance and repair hangar in Rockford that will create up to 500 new jobs over five years.
“Illinois and Rockford are making a making a comeback and companies like AAR are keeping it going strong,” the governor said in a press release. “While we have more work to do, partners like AAR are major contributors to Illinois’ economy and supporting local communities around the state. I thank AAR for their commitment to growing and expanding in Illinois where our hardworking men and women are second to none.”
Despite the addition of new jobs in Rockford, with 170,000 fewer jobs since 2008 and the 6,000 fewer jobs this year, Illinois is worst in the nation in both categories.
Brady Cremeens writes for Watchdog.org. Used by permission.