Analysis shows Illinois’ youth employment rate worst in Midwest

COVID-19 crisis made it even worse

Illinois experienced a 40.4 percent drop in teen employment since 2019, the highest drop in the Midwest and 11th highest drop in the nation

Youth employment in Illinois dropped 40.4 percent since last year, making Illinois the worst state for the employment of 16- to 19-year-olds in the Midwest and the 11th worst state in the nation. Illinois Policy Institute analysis shows the drop in Illinois’ youth employment rate was almost entirely a result of the COVID-19 crisis and associated government-mandated lockdown.

Illinois already ranked the worst in the Midwest for youth employment prior to the pandemic. If not for the COVID-19 crisis, nearly 1 in 3 Illinois teens would have a job. Instead, only 15.9% teens held jobs this April and May, or a little over 1 in 7.

Research shows extended bouts of youth unemployment affect not only future earnings but can also have severe personal effects later on. Just six months of teen unemployment can cost that worker $22,000 during the next 10 years. Jobless teens are also more likely to experience unemployment later in life, suffer higher crime and incarceration rates and see negative consequences for mental and physical health.

U.S. Department of Labor data show 38,897 Illinoisans of all ages filed for unemployment in the week ending July 4, bringing total new jobless claims to 1.42 million since COVID-19 started impacting Illinois’ economy.

Orphe Divounguy, chief economist at the nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute, offered the following statement:

“Illinois policies that negatively impact adult job seekers also cost teens early career opportunities. Instead of working to find ways to provide more relief to those who lost their jobs during the pandemic and to spur a strong recovery in the coming weeks and months, Gov. J.B. Pritzker prioritized a job-killing progressive income tax atop rapid minimum wage hikes that make it harder for young, less experienced job seekers to find work. These types of policies will only exacerbate the shrinkage of Illinois’ workforce.”

To read more about the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Illinois’ jobs, visit: illin.is/covidjobless.

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