Illinois' unemployment rate dropped to 8.8 percent in September from 9.1 percent a month earlier, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report. While the drop in the state's unemployment rate mirrored the 0.3 percentage point drop in the national average, Illinois is failing to make up ground. The state's 8.8 percent unemployment rate is still a full percentage point higher than the national average of 7.8 percent.
That gap is wider closer to home. Illinois continues to trail bordering states like Indiana and Wisconsin, which compete with us for investment, businesses and entrepreneurs. Since the ill-fated income tax hike of 2011, Illinois' unemployment has worsened compared with its neighbors. Illinois' unemployment rate now stands 1.5 percentage points higher than the average unemployment rate of its five border states (weighted by their respective labor forces). The average unemployment rate for these border states now stands at 7.3 percent.
The number of unemployed Illinoisans currently looking for work is more than 582,000. If Illinois' unemployment rate were only equal to the national average, this number would drop 12 percent and nearly 70,000 additional Illinoisans would have jobs.
And if Illinois could bring its unemployment rate down to the average of its neighbors, more than 100,000 additional Illinoisans would have jobs. That would reduce the number of unemployed in Illinois by 17.5 percent.