The Battle for Employment

What is the true unemployment rate in Illinois? Are you accounted for in the true unemployment number?

Image credit: Suzanne Tucker /

Image credit: Suzanne Tucker /

According to recent reports, the Illinois working-age population has grown by nearly 300,000 since the recession; however the Illinois workforce has shrunk 226,000 over the same period. This indicates there’s a gap of more than 500,000 working-age Illinoisans who either dropped out of the workforce or never entered it. Many reports are made on numerous news channels that the unemployment rate is in the range of 7-10%, fluctuating daily. I truly believe the lower reported number of unemployment, the more positive those in office look at bringing jobs to Illinois. But there’s a huge number that some believe are either purposely not counted for or overlooked because of circumstances.

According to Michael Lucci, “to draw a more accurate indicator from employment data, it is necessary to address not only those who are currently unemployed, but also the missing 500,000 Illinoisans, along with those who are employed part time for economic reasons.” When placing all that I just mentioned into the equation, the alternative unemployment rate for Illinois, which includes long term unemployed, Michael says, “is as high as 18.1 percent.” He continues, “Illinois is on pace to recover in September 2021, a full seven years from now which should have policymakers pause, considering the fact Illinois is regularly listed as one of the least competitive states in the U.S. for economic policy by both CEO’s and small-business owners.” This is alarming: truly 18 percent of our population is unemployed. That’s an extremely high number. Solutions must be put in place because as the working-age population increases, it is necessary for the workforce to increase along with it.

Job coach 2At Loaves & Fishes, we have partnered with Community Career Center to take a proactive and educational approach to assist people in enhancing their professional career. Our goal is to prepare people as best possible to secure the job they need in order be self-sufficient. Our “Job Search” team provides resume educational tips, resume writing, networking techniques, and interview training to anyone daily. We have six job coach volunteers meeting with people daily assisting in job searching, installing confidence and skills necessary for people to get back into the workforce and be competitive. Since the start of FY 15, a total of 64 people have met with a job coach with 90% having secured job interviews and over 60% gaining employment. As we approach the upcoming new calendar year, we are increasingly receiving more inquiries from potential volunteers weekly who wish to be a part of our Job Coach team.

I am pleased that I am employed at Loaves & Fishes in being a solution to improve the circumstances of someone’s life. Clients are reacting to the unemployment epidemic with anxiety and are expressing fear of being homeless and not able to provide for their families. At the same time, they also express that they our thankful a place like Loaves & Fishes Community Services exists because they are receiving the assistance needed to prevent the true unemployment rate of Illinois at 18% from increasing.

What do you think of the unemployment rate in Illinois?

Duncan Ward
Director of Empowerment Programs