Unemployment keeps pulling Illinois down, experts say
Illinois' jobless rate is a major force keeping the state in the economic dumps, experts told a House panel on Friday.
“Illinois is one of the Midwest’s weakest links, reflecting both soft job creation and the state’s descent into fiscal quicksand,” Dan Long, executive director of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA), said. “Political gridlock is imposing significant economic cost.”
Long told the House Revenue and Finance Committee that he was quoting from a Moody's Investors Service report that indicated that despite an uptick in employment in late 2016, Illinois is not growing jobs like other states.
The panel is looking into the potential impacts of a bond rating reduction -- vowed by several ratings agencies if the state does not pass a budget by Friday -- and how unemployment is contributing to the state's financial woes.
Illinois's unemployment rate is 4.6 percent, while its neighbor on one side, Iowa, boasts a jobless rate of 3.1 percent, and its neighbor on the other, Indiana, is at 3.2 percent. Many experts contend that Illinoisans have been leaving for better economic conditions next door.
Illinois has posted back-to-back months of poor employment performance, and Long argued that "there's no question" the ongoing budget impasse has an effect on jobless rates.
“It reflects a shrinking labor force, declining population and a drop in the number of those employed in each of the past two months,” Long said.
Long said that with an aging workforce, the state needs to invest in education and job opportunities to maintain a younger demographic.
"With the decline in university funding and MAP grants, I think students going to universities and colleges outside of the state certainly is going to have a negative impact on the economy and future," Long said.
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