Unemployment rate in Illinois up in January; revised jobs numbers show net gain of nearly 50,000 in 2015


By Kevin Hoffman, Reboot Illinois

Data released last week by the Illinois Department of Employment Security had both some good and bad news.

The bad news: the unemployment rate in Illinois rose 0.2 percentage points to 6.3 percent in January, which is now the fourth-highest jobless rate in nation behind Mississippi (6.9 percent), Alaska (6.6 percent), New Mexico (6.5 percent) and Washington D.C. (6.5 percent). The national unemployment rate was 4.9 percent.

The good news: Illinois actually gained 49,600 nonfarm payroll jobs in 2015 rather than losing 3,000, as IDES previously had reported in January. The number of new jobs added in 2014 also was revised, from 66,800 to 88,000.


More from Crain’s Chicago Business political columnist Greg Hinz:

The data suggest that while job growth here continues to lag the nation’s, it is considerably better than suggested in reports issued by Rauner’s Illinois Department of Employment Security and by the governor himself.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics each year revises historical monthly and annual jobs numbers through a process known as benchmarking, which IDES says is the reason for the significant revisions (and why we’re just getting January’s unemployment numbers now).

However, IDES Director Jeff Mays said last week that even with the revised statistics, jobs growth in Illinois remains negligible.

“When you compare job growth to most other states across nation, Illinois has persistently lagged the national growth rate throughout the recovery period,” Mays said in a statement. “Even with the upward revision to the 2015 jobs figures, we went from no growth to very low growth. At the same time, the nation grew twice as fast.”

In other words, Illinois actually gained almost 138,000 jobs over the past two years, up 2.3 percent. That’s a bit over half the national rate in the same period, and 2015 nationally was the best year in decades for job gains.

But 138,000 new jobs arguably is a lot better than Rauner suggested when he ran against then-Gov. Pat Quinn in 2014.


When asked for comment, a spokeswoman for IDES told Hinz job growth in Illinois is at half the rate experienced by the rest of the state’s combined, and that Illinois has been one of the slowest to recover from the recession when compared to its neighboring states.

A total of 1,500 jobs were added in January, with the largest gains in Trade, Transportation and Utilities (3,600) and Educational and Health Services (3,200). Industries with the largest declines in unemployment were Government (-2,600), Other Services (-2,100) and Financial Activities (-1,700), according to IDES.

Follow Kevin on Twitter — @OnlyinIllinois.

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