SPRINGFIELD — The Prairie State’s unemployment rate dropped again last month, but it might not be because more Illinoisans are working.
Pulling from data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) announced the state’s unemployment rate now sits at 6.7 percent, down from 6.8 percent last month and 9.2 percent a year ago.
The job growth was led by the leisure and hospitality sector, which added about 5,000 jobs across the state and followed by approximately 4,300 jobs in the trade, transportation and utilities arena.
An additional 3,300 jobs were added in professional and business services.
As INN reported Thursday, while the unemployment rate has technically declined, that doesn’t mean more Illinoisans are back to work.
Illinois has suffered the worst post-recession economic recovery of any state in the U.S., with nearly 300,000 fewer Illinoisans working today than in January 2008.
The news isn’t better when focused on 2014 either, as the state has lost nearly 6,000 private-sector jobs this year and remains the only Midwestern state to see a net jobs loss in 2014.
IDES released new numbers that showed Illinois’ labor-force participation rate is at a 35-year low.
In August, Illinois’ workforce shrank by 19,000 people. The unemployment rate drops because those who leave the labor force are no longer counted as unemployed.
This news is coupled with a new study from the American Community Survey that found more than 1.3 million Chicago metro-area residents live in poverty.
Both candidates in the gubernatorial race commented on the unemployment decrease news this week.
Republican candidate Bruce Rauner responded by criticizing the status quo policies the state has operated under for several years.
“It’s always good news when more Illinoisans are working. Unfortunately, we still have a huge ways to go to get out of the massive hole that’s been dug in our state by the Quinn-Madigan-Blagojevich machine,” Rauner said in a statement. “We need to put our economy on jet fuel, and under Pat Quinn it’s struggling along on leaded gas.”
Gov. Pat Quinn praised the numbers, offering them as proof his policies are working.
“Hardworking women and men across our state are back on the job and today’s numbers are proof that Illinois’ comeback continues,” Quinn said in a press release. “More people are working today than at any time in the past six years. While we have more work to do, we are getting the job done and Illinois is headed in the right direction.”
July brought Illinois’ greatest labor force depletion in state history. Labor force depletion occurs when people stop looking for work. The unemployment rate decreased at the same time 17,000 Illinoisans gave up trying.
Brookings Institute economist Gary Burtless said unemployment rate drops are caused by a number of factors, including labor force depletion.
Burtless said people usually get 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.”
Brady Cremeens is a reporter for the Illinois News Network.