The real story behind Illinois’ decade of fiscal and governance crises is that the number of jobs is shrinking and food stamps are taking their place.
Illinois’ massive pension debt, perennial overspending and high taxes are squeezing out the private sector and jobs, while Springfield’s dysfunction and the state’s collapsing credit rating are destroying investor confidence.
Illinois now has the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation, and more than 1 million Illinoisans are unemployed or underemployed.
As a result, Illinois continues to add people to its food stamp rolls at a clip faster than nearly every other state in the nation. In the last 12 months, 209,000 additional Illinoisans became dependent on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, according to the April 2013 data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
During that same time period, Illinois added only 40,000 nonfarm payroll jobs.
The number of Illinoisans on food stamps jumped by 11.5% during this yearlong period. Only Wyoming had a faster growth rate at 12.8%, and only three states, including Maryland, had growth rates exceeding 8%.
In contrast, Illinois’ neighboring states increased their SNAP rolls by less than 4%, with Missouri shrinking its enrollment by 1.4%.
It’s the numbers over the past decade that tell the story of lost opportunities for Illinois. Illinoisans are more consistently relying on food stamps. More than 1 million residents have been added to the food stamp rolls since 2003.
In all, more than 2 million Illinoisans are enrolled in SNAP, totaling 16% of the state’s population. That’s a staggering number of Illinoisans who are now reliant on the government for their next meal.
Illinois’ economic progress has been reversed by the state’s failed fiscal policies. The results are obvious: today there are 40,000 fewer nonfarm payroll jobs in Illinois than 10 years ago and nearly 190,000 more people are unemployed.