(The Center Square) – More Illinoisans went back to work last week as the nation posted record job gains, but a full recovery remains far off.
The U.S. Department of Labor posted both its weekly unemployment figures and June unemployment data ahead of the holiday weekend. The department announced the nation added 4.8 million jobs in June, shattering previous records and expectations. The last record was in May when the U.S. added 2.7 million jobs. The unemployment rate fell to 11.1 percent in June.
In Illinois, 45,249 workers filed initial claims for unemployment in the week ending June 27. That’s a decrease of 1,027 from the week prior. June’s unemployment rate has yet to be released, but the Illinois Department of Employment Security said May’s unemployment rate was 14.7 percent.
Local economists said the state has a long road to recovery.
“In Illinois, unemployment claims are still almost five times what they are in normal times. Federal government and state leaders should do all they can to minimize permanent job loss, and that means preventing mass business failures,” Illinois Policy Institute Chief Economist Orphe Divounguy said. “In Illinois, we need to slash business costs, not raise them. That means postponing the minimum wage hike as other states are doing. It also means lawmakers should reconvene to remove the progressive tax hike from the November ballot. A tax hike on small businesses that tend to create the bulk of new Illinois jobs every year will guarantee struggling Illinoisans have no jobs to go back to.”
The state’s minimum wage increased from $9.25 an hour to $10 an hour on Wednesday.
Federal officials were cautiously optimistic.
“Today’s jobs report shows that our resilient economy continues to return more people to work, more quickly, than forecast,” Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia said. “It is heartening to see employment gains across nearly all demographics. The report reflects that we can return millions more Americans to work in the weeks ahead, provided we bear in mind that economic recovery must go hand-in-hand with safe practices and self-discipline.”
President Donald Trump said Thursday that the figures represent a record recovery of the American economy.
“Today’s announcement proves that our economy is coming back,” he said. “We have some areas where we’re putting out the flames, or the fires, that’s working very closely with governors. I think it’s working out very well.”
Nationally, the May and June figures have yet to undo the devastating 20.8 million job losses in April, when governors across the nation had locked most of their economies down to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The job numbers come as a handful of states reinstall closure orders to stem new outbreaks of COVID-19. Texas, Arizona, Florida, California, and others have closed many businesses and banned other activities deemed too susceptible to coronavirus exposure. Despite seeing a slight uptick in cases, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said this week that Illinois would not pause its reopening plan.