Illinois Unemployment, Worst in Nation

Despite sustained job growth recently, the unemployment rate in Illinois is now the worst in the nation.


Illinois’ unemployment rate remains 4.5%, now the highest in the nation and a full percentage point higher than the national rate of 3.5%.


The state’s sluggish recovery from the pandemic is putting the state in a precarious position as economic uncertainty and recession fears continue to increase. Illinoisans suffered more than most Americans during the Great Recession. Because the state still hasn’t recovered from the pandemic, it remains vulnerable to suffering more severely than other states should a recession occur.


Illinois has a tendency to struggle to recover from economic downturns compared to the rest of the nation, as it did after the Great Recession and is doing now after the pandemic. During the Great Recession from 2007 to 2009, Illinois’ economy shrank by nearly 5% compared to a 3.2% drop in the rest of the nation. Then it lagged the recovery from 2009 to 2017, growing by 10.6% while the rest of the nation grew by 17.1%.


The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) this week released its September 2022 report on unemployment rates in fourteen Illinois local metropolitan areas. The report shows continued recession-level jobless rates in four metro areas, Danville, Decatur, Kankakee, and Rockford. These are regions of Illinois that are traditionally aligned with equipment manufacturing and heavy industry. The rate were as follows: Danville 5.0%, Decatur 5.7%, Kankakee 5.1%, and Rockford 5.9%.


Unemployment rates in other metro areas within Illinois, including the key metro Chicago area, showed unemployment below 5.0%. The rate in Chicago was 4.7%. Regions of Illinois with an orientation towards higher education or health care, such as Bloomington (3.4%) and Champaign-Urbana (3.5%), posted figures in line with their economic sectors. The states that border Illinois have generally healthier economies than Illinois does as of the present date, and some Illinois areas showed patterns in September 2022 that may have been influenced by the booming health of our neighboring states. For example, the Quad Cities had a jobless rate in September 2022 of only 3.4%; the rate in Chicago-area Lake County, which borders Wisconsin, was 3.6%; and the unemployment rate in the St. Louis-oriented Metro-East region of southwestern Illinois was 3.8%.