Editorials

Illinois decides to manufacture debt, taxes instead of steel, tractors

Paul Hefner in 2012 cuts sheet metal to length for manufacturing gas stoves at Empire Comfort Systems in Belleville. Illinois has lost 8,000 manufacturing jobs so far this year, more than each of the total year losses since the Great Recession.
Paul Hefner in 2012 cuts sheet metal to length for manufacturing gas stoves at Empire Comfort Systems in Belleville. Illinois has lost 8,000 manufacturing jobs so far this year, more than each of the total year losses since the Great Recession. tvizer@bnd.com

Maybe all those Springfield lawmakers wanting you to give them yet another chance Nov. 8 should be out there touting this: “Unemployment is down! August saw a 5.5 percent unemployment rate in Illinois, down from 5.8 percent!”

Except that the rate is down because we lost 22,000 jobs in August, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security. A truthful politician would be saying: “Jobs are down! More taxes for you!”

Dig a little deeper into the job numbers and you’ll see that 4,400 of those lost jobs are manufacturing jobs, bringing this year’s manufaturing job loss — so far — to a total of 8,000. Last year we lost 6,200 manufacturing jobs all year, so eight months into this year we’ve already had the worst year for manufacturing job losses since the Great Recession hit.

Illinois in August also lost 2,600 finance jobs, 1,900 education and health jobs, 1,700 construction jobs, 1,400 service jobs and 800 in the trades, transport and utilities. The manufacturing jobs are especially painful because they are well-paid and their loss ripples through Illinois’ economy.

Those 2,000 jobs we lost at Granite City Steel last year supported jobs at related industries that processed their steel and made goods from their steel. Those steel workers shopped and dined and bought goods that supported other jobs. Same at Caterpillar and Boeing and ADM.

Neighboring Midwestern states are not seeing the same loss of manufacturing jobs. The Illinois losses also mean skilled workers are not going to sit here and await better days. They move to states with healthier economies that are often just across the state line.

“Illinois residents continue to drop out of the workforce at a concerning rate, driven out by the steady loss of jobs and anemic growth,” Illinois Department of Comerce and Economic Opportunity Acting Director Sean McCarthy stated in Illinois’ August unemployment report. “If our state enacted the structural reforms necessary to get Illinois growing at the national rate, we could create 200 new jobs every day and put Illinois back to work. Instead, the state lost 8,200 jobs and nearly 20,000 people gave up looking for work.”

Your state lawmakers desperately want to spend more money to “protect the middle class.” Fewer workers means they will get the money by doing what to whom?

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