State, business, Labor agreement eliminates Illinois’ unemployment insurance loan balance


Illinois Correspondent

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has brokered an agreement with business and Labor to eliminate the state’s unemployment insurance loan balance and provide security for unemployment.

The state had been forced to borrow $4.5 billion from the federal government to provide economic relief to the unprecedented number of unemployed workers throughout the pandemic, many of them union members. Two prior payments have been made using the American Rescue Plan Act funds and state funds to reduce the balance to its current level.

The agreement among representatives from business, Labor, the General Assembly and the state will pay off the remaining $1.36 billion for the unemployment insurance trust fund and $450 million to replenish the fund for the future, after the massive impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that put millions out of work. The funding comes from surplus state funds and a dropping unemployment rate – 4.1 percent in October.

Pritzker called it a “historic state investment” that eliminates the last of the state’s $4.5 billion debt incurred through the pandemic and saves millions in interest.

“The people of our state deserve a secure future, one that supports working families and continues to make Illinois a great place to live,” said Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton.

Rob Karr, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, said the pandemic created “unprecedented challenges” for the unemployment system across the nation. He extended appreciation to Organized Labor, the governor and the state for resolving the debt.

Karr told the Associated Press that the deal will save business owners $900 million in unemployment taxes over the next five years.

Pat Devaney, secretary-treasurer of the Illinois AFL-CIO, told the Associated Press that the agreement increases the amount of money for unemployment including larger payments by employers over the next five years. “All the modeling I have seen under this proposal shows positive balances that will help us endure even if we enter a recession in the near future or down the road,” Devaney said.

The governor’s office also said that 770,000 new jobs have been created in Illinois since the lows of the pandemic recession and has surpassed $1 trillion in gross national product for the first time in its history.

Job growth continues to be strong

Unemployment is slightly up in Illinois as of November, but job growth continues to be strong.

The unemployment rate is now 4.6 percent according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, based on preliminary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and released just before the Thanksgiving holiday.

The industry sectors with the largest gains in employment include: trade transportation and utilities; leisure and hospitality; manufacturing; and professional and business services. The largest declines were in government and information services.

“Over the past year, Illinois has continued to exhibit positive long-term employment trends, with considerable improvement in the state’s unemployment rate and the addition of nearly 192,000 new jobs,” said Sylvia Garcia, director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. “DCEO continues to support economic recovery throughout the state through marquee economic development programs that attract job creators, help Illinois businesses grow, and support job-seekers through statewide resources and programs.”

The unemployment rate is slightly lower than it was at this time one year ago, when approximately 5.3 percent were out of work. The statistics indicate 17 consecutive months of job growth as of October 2022.

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