Illinois’ Jobs Outlook for 2018

January 11, 2018
Sen. Kyle McCarter

During the week, a positive report on jobs for Illinois was released, but there are some cautionary developments to report too. If Illinois is to take advantage of the growth and optimism we are seeing nationally, 2018 could be a critical year. The time for reforms is long-past due.
Job Growth in 2018?
According to the ManpowerGroup Employment Outlook Survey, “Employers in Illinois expect to hire at a positive pace during Quarter 1 2018.” The staffing agency interviewed employers for their annual First Quarter report released Dec. 12. They found: “19 percent of the companies interviewed plan to hire more employees, while 6 percent expect to reduce their payrolls. Another 70 percent expect to maintain their current workforce levels and 5 percent are not certain of their hiring plans.”
The good news is tempered by additional figures, showing Illinois trailing neighboring states, in net employment outlook. According to the ManpowerGroup, here’s where Illinois fits in comparison:
Increase Staff
Decrease Staff
Maintain Staff
Don’t Know
Net Employment Outlook
While I have noted some modest job growth in recent reports, Illinois’ unemployment rate (4.9%) is still higher than the national unemployment rate of 4.1%. It’s a sobering fact that we should not ignore.
Fewer Burdens = Economic Growth
One way to grow our economy is to remove the shackles from the job creators through eliminating regulations and employment costs that hamper job creation. An example is the prevailing wage law, which stifles construction industry jobs and causes harm to taxpayers by inflating the costs of public construction jobs. The Illinois Policy Institute (IPI) recently reported, “Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, indicate construction jobs in Illinois were slow to recover from the Great Recession. Construction employment in Illinois is down nearly 30 percent over the last decade, one of the nation’s worst recoveries in that sector.” IPI states, “Illinois’ Prevailing Wage Act is a law that sets inflated wages that employers have to pay workers on public construction jobs…These higher wages are a windfall for some lucky workers. But this policy benefits the few at the expense of the many – artificially inflated labor costs lead to job rationing and higher unemployment.”
Another regulation that harms economic growth is Illinois’ costly Workers’ Compensation System. Ranked eighth-highest in the nation among the 50 states in a national survey conducted by the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services, the Workers’ Comp rates paid by Illinois employers is one more costly roadblock to hiring. In some cases it’s causing employers to leave Illinois, as I reported earlier this year.
Our current Workers’ Compensation System lacks one key component that could make a positive difference. It’s called “causation.” Causation is defined as the workplace being the majority cause of the injury or illness. Such a standard appears logical, but under current Illinois law an employer who is found to be only 25% responsible for an injury or illness, would still have to pay for 100% of the claim. Adding a causation standard to the system would ensure employers are treated fairly and injured workers would receive the medical care they need to quickly to return to work. Workers’ Comp reform was part of the Taxpayer Bargain balanced budget plan I introduced in April.
There’s one more red flag of warning raised during the week and it warrants our attention.
Too Many Roadblocks Remain
In a Wall Street Journal editorial on Wednesday, Dec. 13, the leading financial newspaper highlighted Illinois’ ongoing crisis of out-migration – losing population and income to other states. The Editorial Board wrote: “The Prairie State lost a record $4.75 billion in adjusted gross income to other states in the 2015 tax year, according to recently IRS data released. That’s up from $3.4 billion in the prior year.”
The newspaper’s editorial, “Illinois Drives People Away” notes; “Many of the migrants were retirees who often flock to balmier climes. But millennials accounted for more than a third of the net outflow in tax returns.”
This echoes my concerns about a state on a continued decline, leaving fewer opportunities for our families, friends, and especially our children.
The Journal editorial also pointed out Illinois’ high taxes as a problem: “exorbitant property and business taxes have retarded economic growth.” The editorial continued, “This helps explain why Illinois’s economy has been stagnant, growing a meager 0.9% on an inflation-adjusted annual basis since 2012—the slowest in the Great Lakes and half as fast as the U.S. overall.”
Make 2018 the Year of Reform and Renewal
Those of us who abide by common sense and reality can see the problems. Outsiders peer in and see the problems, but apparently year after year of poor economic performance and high unemployment isn’t enough to move the establishment party’s legislative control of the State Capitol toward common sense solutions, and the obvious need for reform.
Failed public policies must end; and that includes ever-bigger, unaffordable government, spending money we don’t have, and increasing taxes. We need to stop repeating the mistakes of the past.
In 2018, let’s demand Illinois’ leaders move us in the right direction. We all understand how partisan politics dominates government today. It’s on the nightly news in great detail. However, wouldn’t the better outcome be to work together and restore opportunity and prosperity in Illinois? Wouldn’t responsible government and economic growth benefit every Illinois citizen, regardless of party affiliation?
Let’s demand government live within its means, just like you and I have to in our families and businesses. And, while one particular party has a choking legislative grip on the Capitol, let’s not forget that some Republicans who claim to be against big government need to be reminded that the solution to this problem is smaller government instead of higher taxes.
Notable Quotable
“Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” – – William Jennings Bryan, (1860 – 1925); Born in Salem, Illinois; Nebraska Congressman; Democrat candidate for President (1896, 1900, and 1908); U.S. Secretary of State under President Woodrow Wilson.