Illinois' loss is neighboring states' gain
Illinois appears to be gushing jobs. For years now, labor-intensive manufacturing employees are finding work in bordering states, but new graduates and younger employees are also fleeing in search of better opportunities. The most dramatic losses typically occur in summer.
“The bad news is, once again, over the warm season of the year, Illinois' labor force shrank,” Michael Lucci, vice president of policy at the Illinois Policy Institute, said on the Illinois Rising radio program recently. “When your labor force is shrinking every summer, and people tend to move in the summer, a lot of that is because people are moving to other states to go get a job.”
Lucci said the state saw its workforce shrink by 104,000 last summer.
He said much of the movement is young millennial students graduating from a college in Illinois and moving to border states to find work in their career fields. This presents not only a current problem but also a future one, since it means there won't be a generation ready to replace older workers who retire or move on.
“It’s the people that are entering the workforce and in their prime working years that are actually leaving,” Lucci said.
The loss of workers means a loss of a tax base as well.
“We are seeing that tax revenues are declining year over year,” Lucci said.
That loss, of course, is deeply troubling for a state already weighed down by massive financial issues.
“You can’t solve a revenue problem by driving taxpayers out of the state,” Lucci said.
Trying to make up for the lost revenue by increasing taxes would backfire, he said, since it would give workers “more reason to flee the state.”
Border states Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa are not experiencing this issue, Lucci said.
“Iowa and Indiana actually had their workforces grow over the summer,” Lucci said.
He said part of that increase comes from Illinois.
“If you’re a manufacturing worker, and you want to find that job opportunity, it’s most likely going to be in Wisconsin or Indiana,” Lucci said.