Prairie State Continues To Grow Slower Than Most Of U.S.

·        This week the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA), the economic think-tank arm of the Illinois General Assembly, issued their monthly report on the current state of the Illinois economy.  The February 2015 “Monthly Briefing” melded together Illinois’ December 2014 unemployment rate of 6.2%, its current 5.88 million-person labor force, and current rates of change in job growth and joblessness to develop a comprehensive picture of the current state of the Illinois economy as it compares to other states, especially states that neighbor Illinois.

CGFA’s nonpartisan staff finds that the rates of Illinois job growth and change in joblessness lag well behind national averages.  For example, although Illinois’ job totals are marginally higher (up 3.2%) from where they were 36 months ago, this marginal growth ranks Illinois 38th among the 50 states.  Illinois has 6.6% more employer-employee relationships than it had 20 years ago, which ranks 48th.  Over the twenty-year period that began in 1995, few states have performed worse than Illinois. 

Illinois’ anemic job growth continues to cause poor tax collections.  Much of Illinois’ income tax is paid directly by employers through monies withheld from employee paychecks, and when jobs are not created, income tax receipts lag.  This problem, in the first half of calendar 2015, is exacerbated by the rate change in the individual income tax rate on January 1, 2015 from 5.0% to 3.75%.  CGFA staff estimates that State individual income tax collections will, in February 2015, fall $219 million below receipts taken in during February 2014.  This individual income tax shortfall is by far the biggest ongoing driver affecting the ongoing shortage in State general funds receipts, which are expected in February 2015 to fall $174 million behind comparable general funds receipt figures for February 2014.   

Ongoing debate on the FY15 and FY16 State of Illinois budget is driven by several factors.  The pattern of slow private-sector economic growth and the ongoing and steepening downturn in Illinois tax receipts are two of these factors.