May 17, 2022

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Illinois’ leisure, hospitality industry suffering 3rd-worst recovery in U.S.


Illinois is still missing 77,000 jobs from its restaurants, bars, hotels and other leisure industries since COVID-19 shutdowns. That Illinois jobs sector has recovered only 72% of what it lost in the pandemic – one of the nation’s worst recoveries.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and state-mandated shutdowns, businesses in the leisure and hospitality sector were among those hit the hardest. But now they are recovering and propelling most states’ economic recoveries.

But less-so in Illinois. More than one-in-four of those jobs is still missing, giving Illinois’ leisure and hospitality jobs the nation’s third-worst recovery.

The states that have made the most progress in recouping their total pandemic-related job losses have largely done so because their leisure and hospitality sectors have bounced back faster. Illinois’ recovery is still a long way away with only 72% of the leisure and hospitality job losses recouped – besting only Hawaii and New Hampshire.

Idaho, Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming now have leisure and hospitality payrolls that are equal to or greater than their pre-pandemic peaks in 2020. Many other states are also nearing a full employment recovery for the industry. These states are also among the most recovered as a whole from their early 2020 job losses.

Illinois is still missing 178,300 jobs since the pandemic began, with a large portion of those missing jobs coming from the leisure and hospitality industry. The sector is responsible for 37.3% of Illinois’ job losses since January 2020, more than any other area of the economy.

It is clear Illinois’ labor market recovery hinges on recouping jobs lost in the leisure and hospitality sector. What is far less clear is how likely that is to happen.

More than one-third of the workers who are still missing from Illinois’ workforce have likely retired. Making matters even worse for Illinois, a record exodus driving population decline threatens to prevent the state’s economy from ever returning to pre-pandemic employment levels.

The first step to stop the bleeding and reverse the state’s current trajectory will be for voters to take a hard look at Amendment 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot.  Amendment 1 would change the Illinois Constitution to grant unions in Illinois more extreme powers than they have in any other state, including the ability to bargain over virtually limitless subjects, the ability to override state law through their contracts, and a guarantee that taxpayers and lawmakers would have an extremely difficult time reversing course.

Should Amendment 1 pass, Illinois’ $317 billion pension debt will continue to balloon as state and local taxes, which are already the among the highest in the nation, rise in an attempt to keep up. Spending on vital programs will continue to fall. Illinois’ housing and labor markets are already suffering as high taxes and reduced services make finding a job and living in the state tenuous.

Illinois needs reform that will rein in the state’s cost drivers and deliver the services residents expect in exchange for their tax dollars. Amendment 1 ensures those challenges will increase.





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