Employment Improves, But Illinois Still Lags U.S.

Apr 18, 2014

The Illinois State Capitol, in a fog.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

The latest state job numbers are out and the news for Illinois is mixed. The unemployment rate is down. But fewer people were hired than expected, and Illinois still lags the nation.

Illinois' March unemployment rate is 8.4 percent. That's the best it's been in more than five years, but it's still among the worst rates in the country.

On top of that, officials blame the unseasonably cold weather for the fact that fewer jobs were added in March than in the previous month.

Economist Fred Giertz, with the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois, says it's hard to see exactly why Illinois continues to struggle. He says part of it is the financial disarray in state government, and part of it is the income tax rate hike from a few years ago.

"Higher taxes often create problems," Giertz says. "But on the other hand, having states that are insolvent is not a good situation either for development."

Despite all that, Giertz says Illinois is still a prosperous state, with one of the highest per-capita incomes in the Midwest.