JacksonSouth Loop

Despite Low State, National Numbers, Unemployment High in Some Illinois Counties

By Tony Mazzari and Cassandra Roman

Posted: Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018

Dominic Flisk of south suburban Oak Lawn lost his job at a local mechanic’s shop in August of 2018. And although unemployment rates are low nationally and in Illinois, Flisk and others in his situation find themselves fighting an uphill battle to find a job.

“So far it has been a struggle,” said Flisk, 25. “Certain places will not hire based on simple qualifications. Applying to a plethora of businesses at once seems to work well and get the best results and also affords you options.”

Unemployment is a tough thing to go through, and something that we’ve seen ebb and flow throughout the years in this country.

Despite the fact that U.S. unemployment rates have decreased for several years, the numbers still paint a grim picture of Americans who have either lost their jobs or can’t find work. Illinois is no exception.

According to a report from CNN in January 2018, of the 94.6 million Americans who are currently out of work, 87.1 million weren’t working due to factors such as retirement, injury or other reasons. However, 7.5 million people are unemployed for reasons that don’t relate to these factors.

In Illinois' 102 counties, the trend is somewhat similar to nationwide statistics. According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, the Illinois unemployment rate as of June 2018 is at 4.3 percent, and it’s been on a steady decrease for the last nine years. The unemployment rate peaked at 11.3 percent in December 2009, but five years later, the rate dropped to 6.1 percent.



Cook County is the most populous county in Illinois, with a population of 5.1 million people. But the unemployment rate was at 4.4 percent as of 2017 according to the state of Illinois. That means that 207,787 people in Cook County are unemployed.

Ben Ost, an associate professor of economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said there are multiple reasons why people are unemployed in Cook County, despite the numbers showing that unemployment rates are currently on a downward trend.

“There is always going to be some unemployment due to people transitioning between jobs or transitioning from school to the labor force,” Ost said. “It takes some time to find a new job, even in a great labor market and so this frictional unemployment is expected.”
Another reason, according to Ost, is due to the fact that many people looking for work don’t have the skills that a lot of job openings are looking for.

“In Chicago, there are many areas of the city where potential workers lack basic skills and education.  These individuals have much higher rates of unemployment because the current job openings are disproportionately high skilled.”

Paul J. Pieper, a UIC associate professor of economics, said Cook County’s unemployment rates would follow the national average.

“Cook County has a fairly diversified economy …  even with the interest rate hikes this year, the national economy still has a fair amount of momentum, so I would expect the national unemployment rate to stabilize near its current level,” he said.

Despite Cook County being the most populated county in Illinois, and as high as its number of unemployed might seem to some, the actual unemployment rate of Cook County is still lower than those of several other mostly-rural counties located in the state. Boone County, in northern Illinois, has a population of 54,165. It’s unemployment rate as of 2017 was at 7.1 percent, which leaves close to 4,000 people across that county unemployed.

And Pulaski County, which is located in Southern Illinois on the border of Kentucky, has worse unemployment rates despite having a much smaller population. Pulaski County’s unemployment rate currently sits at 7.7 percent, and with a population of 6,161 (2010), that leaves 474 people out of work in that county. Incoming Pulaski County Rex Wilburn did not immediately respond to questions regarding his county’s unemployment rates.

Annie Gorman, a 23-year-old social media intern from Chicago who found herself unemployed last summer due to numerous outside circumstances elaborated on her own personal experience with unemployment, even with a Bachelors in Communication from Eastern Illinois University.

“I was unemployed for about three months period and it was the most unbelievably frustrating thing sometimes.”
Despite what he is facing, Flisk provided some advice for those such as himself who are trying to overcome their unemployment.

“The best solution to overcoming your unemployment is to just keep plugging along and applying to place after place because there will always be work to be done,” he said.


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