President Barack Obama’s home state, which has been governed by Democrats throughout his national political career, has slipped in the rankings and now has the third-worst unemployment rate in the nation. Though the jobless rate was the same in December 2013 (8.6%) as in December 2012, the state’s labor force declined by a staggering 80,000 workers, according to Michael Lucci of the Illinois Policy Institute.
Across the same period, the national unemployment rate fell by 1.3%–though that, too, was partly driven by an exodus of workers from the labor force, albeit less dramatic than in Illinois. Lucci observes: ‘The state now suffers from its worst labor force participation rate since June 1978. It has been nearly 36 years since such a small percent of the working-age population in Illinois found it worthwhile to search for work.”
In terms of policy, Illinois represents utopia, at least in Obama’s imagination: high taxes, high regulation, high levels of (mandatory) union membership, and one-party rule. Yet the state is a financial failure and remains in economic free-fall, as hundreds of thousands of residents leave the state (often for more conservative, growth-friendly states). A recent pension reform bill will have only modest effects on the state’s unfunded liabilities.