Cook County Illinois has the largest population loss of any county in the nation. Chicago represents just over half of the population of Cook County.

Here is a graph I put together of the “Great Escape” from Illinois.


  • Between 2013 and 2016 the population of Illinois fell by 77,966. The population of Cook County fell by 36,739.
  • Between 2001 and 2016 the population of Illinois rose by 313,084. The population of Cook County fell by 122,759.
  • Starting in 2013, the “great escape” is in roughly equal numbers from Cook County and the rest of the state.

Job Highlights

On July 23 I noted Eight States Including Illinois Have Not Recovered Jobs Lost in Prior Recessions. The states are Alabama, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, Ohio, and Wyoming.

Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan are still below employment levels set in 2000. Here is a new chart I created comparing Illinois to Michigan and Ohio.

At least Illinois is not last in every category.

Metro Area Unemployment: Which States Are in Reverse? Spotlight Illinois

  • Illinois has 12 metro areas, none of which have unemployment rates below the national average.
  • Illinois worsened between 1998 and 2007 and then again from 2007 to 2017.
  • Neighboring states are all now better than Illinois

Illinois vs Neighboring States

For more details, please see Metro Area Unemployment: Which States Are in Reverse? Spotlight Illinois.

With each passing decade, the unemployment situation in Illinois has gotten worse.

This is not surprising. The state passed its first budget in three fiscal years, complete with massive tax hikes. The budget is required by Constitution to be balanced, but it isn’t.

An exodus of businesses and private citizens is underway. Reforms are desperately needed but none came with the passage of the budget.

Rauner 0-44

Governor Rauner is 0 for 44 in reforms he set out to accomplish. In fact, the corporate and personal tax hikes put the true score at -2 out of 44.

Cash-strapped cities suffer under prevailing wage laws and untenable pension promises.

Corporations suffer under the worst workers’ compensation laws in the nation.

Citizens suffer from the highest property taxes in the nation.

It is too late to save Illinois from insolvency. Rather than fix the problem, the new tax hikes will make matters worse.

Five Desperately Needed Reforms

  1. Municipal bankruptcy legislation
  2. Pension reform
  3. Right-to-Work legislation
  4. End of prevailing wage laws
  5. Workers’ compensation reform

Number one on my list of Illinois reforms is bankruptcy legislation. It is the only way out for numerous Illinois cities whose hands are tied by union-sponsored prevailing wage laws and pension plans.

Moody’s held off for now downgrading Illinois to junk status, but junk is baked into the cake sooner or later. The budget fixes nothing.

Related Articles

  1. Too Much, Too Little, Too Late: Junk Status for Illinois Coming Up
  2. Illinois Budget: What it Does and Doesn’t Do (Surprise Giveaway to Muni Bondholders?)

Also consider The Way Chicago “Works”: Graft, Corruption, Political Connections, Bribes, Unions.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock