By: Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner
Industries across Illinois have suffered catastrophic job losses due to the state shutdown and COVID-19. Sectors including leisure and hospitality, business services and transportation have all experienced job losses in excess of 100,000 positions.
The least impacted sector in Illinois? State government.
A key element of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s initial lockdown strategy in early March was to select which industries were “essential” versus those which would have to shut down. Two months and more than 800,000 lost jobs later, we now know who the biggest losers and winners are.
Workers in Illinois’ leisure and hospitality industry have been the state’s hardest hit according to April data from Illinois’ Department of Employment Security (IDES). The sector has slashed 320,000 jobs, or 52 percent of its workforce, compared to a year ago. “Other services” are down 20 percent, while construction jobs have fallen by 13 percent.
In all, 13 percent of Illinois’ private sector, nonfarm jobs have disappeared. “Decimated” – derived from a Latin term meaning one in ten – is thus an understatement of private sector job losses. The losses will only get worse when May numbers are reported.
State government jobs, meanwhile, are down just 2 percent compared to April 2019. That’s a loss of 3,000 positions.
It seems like only municipalities in suburban and downstate Illinois have done any cuts at all. Even so, local government jobs are only down about 6 percent.
It’s clear from the numbers that the public sector is not going through downsizing like the private sector is. Not that government positions should be cut for cutting’s sake. Many of those jobs – police, fire, public health, etc. – are essential to protecting Illinoisans.
The real problem is that the private sector, the one that’s taken all the hits, has to keep paying for the public sector whose jobs and benefits have been protected. Gov. J.B. Pritzker refuses to consider layoffs, furloughs or pay cuts to state workers. Ditto for Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle.
Chicago’s Mayor Lori Lightfoot has been quietly finalizing the $1.5 billion, five-year contract she negotiated with the CTU, which she calls the “most generous” ever granted to the union. CPS employees will see five-year raises of anywhere from 24 to 50 percent, depending on the job.
And at the state level, thousands of AFSCME employees, who are already some of the nation’s highest paid state workers, are scheduled to receive automatic raises in July. They’ll get step increases plus cost-of-living raises worth an additional $260 million as part of the state’s record-spending 2021 budget. Lawmakers passed the budget with a $6 billion deficit with the hope the hole will be filled by federal aid.
Those actions just add insult to injury for the millions of Illinoisans impacted by the shutdown.
The most frightening issue for the private sector is that 40 percent of lost jobs may never come back. “Our best guess is something like 60 percent of the employment reduction is going to be temporary, and 40 percent is going to be permanent” said Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford University and one of the co-authors of a recent study.
Now that shortfall will be even more extreme.
Read more about COVID-19 and the impact on Illinois:
- No cuts, record spending, and hoping for a bailout. Eight things you need to know about Illinois’ 2021 budget.
- Questions Illinois Reporters Should Ask Governor Pritzker and Dr. Ezike
- Big raises for Chicago Teachers Union, state’s AFSCME shows where federal aid to Illinois will end up
- Trading at junk levels: Illinois borrowing costs 5 times higher than AAA-rated states
- Pritzker’s overly-restrictive shutdown rules make Illinois a national outlier
- Half of Illinois’ deaths linked to retirement homes. Five key facts you should know.