Revised figures show 2020 job losses were worse for Black Illinoisans than originally thought. The worst year of job losses in state history disproportionately affected minority Illinoisans.

2020 was already the worst year in recorded history for job loss in Illinois, but the damage was 70,000 jobs deeper than originally thought, according to new data revisions by the Illinois Department of Employment Security in conjunction with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Worse, job losses hit Black Illinoisans at over twice the rate of white workers compared to before the pandemic began.

Black employment declined by 15.2%, while Hispanic employment declined by 8.4% and white employment declined by 7.3% when compared to February 2020. All told, Illinois payrolls were down by 495,800 workers, or 8.1%.

While COVID-19 and state-mandated restrictions on economic activity have hurt all Illinoisans, minority workers suffered more. Besides the doubled losses for Black workers, Hispanic Illinoisans were 15% more likely to have lost their jobs compared to white Illinoisans.

Heavy job losses and a sluggish recovery have left Illinois with an unemployment rate far higher than the national average. As of mid-January – the most recent data available – Illinois’ unemployment rate stood at 7.7%, while the national figure was 6.3%. Those rates were even higher for minority workers.

The unemployment rate in Illinois for white non-Hispanic workers stands at 6.4%. Meanwhile, Black non-Hispanic Illinoisans are nearly twice as likely to be out of work with unemployment rates of 11.3%, and Hispanic Illinoisans face a 10.6% unemployment rate.

Illinois’ economy is struggling more than the rest of the nation, but the state did get some good news in the data released March 12. Payrolls grew by 9,700 (+0.2%) from mid-December to mid-January, snapping a two-month skid.

The bulk of the job gains came from the professional and business services sector, which added 11,500 jobs (+1.3%); leisure and hospitality added 5,100 (+1.3%); other services gained 2,400 (+1.0%); trade, transportation and utilities grew payrolls by 2,100 (+0.2%); the information sector added 300 jobs (+0.4%); mining employment expanded by 100 jobs (+1.5%); and educational and health services added 100 jobs (+0.01%).

Meanwhile, some industries experienced payroll declines. Financial activities shed 6,400 jobs (-1.6%); construction jobs shrank by 3,200 (-1.4%); government lost 1,800 jobs (-0.2%); and manufacturing payrolls declined by 500 (-0.1%).

While the January figures are a welcomed improvement, Illinois has a long and painful economic recovery ahead and will need to reform drags on the economy that even before the pandemic were causing jobs to lag the rest of the nation.

Unfortunately for already-struggling Illinoisans, rather than pursuing spending reforms, Gov. J.B. Pritzker is pursuing nine new taxes worth nearly $1 billion, including ones that would hurt job creation efforts. The move was decried by the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and Republicans because Pritzker is not closing unfair “loopholes” as he claimed, but rather trying to take back a deal he made early in his term for key tax incentives and deductions intended to create jobs.

Pritzker recently failed to get the lame duck legislature to cancel a pandemic recovery tax credit for small businesses that would have taken from $500 million to $1 billion more from them as they struggle to recover. Pritzker vowed to pursue the money again with the new legislature.

Contrary to the governor’s wishes, it is imperative lawmakers work to avoid the harm to businesses and jobs that tax hikes would create. Economists argue against raising taxes during a recession.

Instead, Illinois can improve its finances and continue to provide core services mainly by implementing constitutional pension reform. The Illinois Policy Institute is offering that along with other fiscal fixes that can give overburdened Illinois taxpayers a path to declining debt, lower taxes and more effective state government.

Illinois needs its labor markets to improve so they can create more jobs and grow the tax base, not to pass more and higher taxes that cost the state more jobs and residents.