Gov. Bruce Rauner and central Illinois contractors have some ideas about why Illinois has the highest unemployment rate in the country. 

During a roundtable discussion with Peoria area business operators Friday, Rauner said unemployment is a huge problem across the state. Rauner said businesses tell him there are job openings that can’t be filled. He said education plays an important role in the economy. 

“There’s a disconnect between our education system and what’s available in our economy and we’ve got to change our education system to take advantage of that,” Rauner said.

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Overall Illinois gained 5,400 jobs in April but the unemployment rate increased to 6.6 percent. Illinois is tied with Alaska for the highest unemployment rate in the country according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Illinois lost 1,400 construction jobs in April. At the roundtable discussion in Peoria, contractor Sammy Hobson said the lack of a state budget impacts his hiring decisions.
“We’re just not getting enough contracts large enough to even think about hiring additional people and expanding.” 

Rauner said the state’s poor economy is part of the problem. “We can’t balance our budget at the state level if our economy isn’t growing, if our small businesses are not prospering.”
Contractor Bill Joseph said out-of-state businesses that compare property taxes and construction costs in central Illinois with larger populated areas in other states are deciding not to relocate to Illinois.

“Their sales are going to be less, there’s less population, and that’s a hard sell to get people here,” Joseph said.