Labor data shows prime-age Illinois workers leaving

Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that Illinois is losing residents at a rate higher than most other states, and that a great deal of them are in their prime working – and taxpaying – ages.

An analysis of the BLS data conducted by the Illinois Policy Institute showed that from 2005-2015 Illinois had a net loss of 354,000 adult residents.

Outside of retirees leaving for warmer climes, the leading outgoing demographic was the 25-44 age group, with 290,000 of them migrating elsewhere.

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“The more Illinoisans leave, the fewer there are left to shoulder the burden of Illinois’ tremendous debts,” one of the IPI analysts said. “The sheer number of residents leaving Illinois matters.”

University of Illinois Economics Professor Lawrence Officer said that losing that important wage-earning demographic is not a good sign for the future, or for any long-term hopes of the state rebounding from its current fiscal morass.

“Whenever a state is doing relatively badly compared to other states, then you do have this issue of people migrating,” he said. “So when you’re asking what the effect would be on Illinois – it is not good.”

He said the outmigration issue could cause a professional brain-drain in Illinois.

Officer said the state’s well-publicized fiscal problems not only drive professionals to other places to earn a living, it also increases the number of other states targeting Illinois for recruiting.

“If they are unemployed, it does nothing in the short-run,” he said. “In the long run, maybe we’re losing some skilled workers, engineers, professors; and that's not going to be (beneficial) to the state. When our very educated, highly skilled workers are being recruited by companies and universities outside the state, that is harmful to our growth.”  

He said he’s seen the same scenario play out at the University of Illinois, with professors tired of dealing with the state’s issues considering offers from other states. He said the issue has the potential to impact the quality of the university.

“If you’re losing people who are highly skilled, for example, the University of Illinois system, we’re very concerned because of the budget crisis in Illinois that some of our professors, top professors, are being recruited by universities in other states,” he said.

The Illinois Policy Institute study also showed that neighboring Indiana had actually increased its number of 25-to-44-year-olds over the past decade.


(Copyright WBGZ /