Virtual Latino Employment Collapse in Illinois

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

Illinois still faces a higher unemployment rate than is true of its neighbors Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin. But that in of itself does not tell the whole story. Employment opportunities for ethnic and racial minorities is especially bad in this state. This is true for Latino employment in Illinois. According to information from the Illinois Department of Employment Security, the employment rate for Latino men fell eight percentage points from 2003 to 2013. What this means is that employment opportunities for Latino men has decreased substantially over a decade period from what it was.The Great Recession alone has been responsible for a good percentage of this fall in employment for Latino men. From 2008 onwards, the Great Recession alone has accounted for 6.4 percent fall in employment for Latino men.

The lack of employment opportunities has left many families without means of independent support, and become more dependent on state government programs. As of this year, well over one million more Illinois residents must now depend on food stamps to put food on their tables. In fact, one out of every five Illinois residents must depend on food stamps to be able to put food on their tables. This is disastrous, and one has to wonder how long can Illinois maintain such a program when record numbers of people are now on it and less tax revenue is coming in due to growing unemployment? Even the unemployment numbers are in dispute. Officially, the unemployment rate is listed at 6.7 percent. However, if we figure in all those who are only part-time employed (just to have any money to live), plus those who were forced to drop out of the job market because there were no jobs, the unemployment rate for Illinois would be closer to 18 percent (we know this because Illinois is one of the few states that has what is called an alternative employment calculation based on those who were in the workforce, but have since dropped out due to lack of employment).

Of course, it does not help that Illinois is one of the least competitive states in the country. To give one example, the Hostess corporation had kept one of its bakeries open in Schiller Park, Illinois. However, the high taxes and lack of union cooperation in trying to keep that plant open led to Hostess moving out of the state and to hundreds of workers losing their jobs. This has happened to many Latino businesses as well in this state. The sad truth is that Illinois has the least business friendly environment and this has led to more jobs being lost in Illinois. It does not matter whether these consequences are the result of either the Democrat or Republican parties (although more a result of the Democrat Party since the Democrats have held control of most of the state politics since 2003), but it does matter that the state’s policies have destroyed employment opportunities by having high taxes and a less than business friendly environment—especially for small and medium mom and pop companies that could provide work for those who really need it. I hope these policies are changed soon to prevent more opportunities for not only Latinos but all Illinois residents from packing up and leaving.

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