"America's Dairyland" appears to be turning into the land of milk and honey for Illinoisans looking for work and a lower cost of living.
A U.S Census Bureau estimate said Illinois lost 21,324 residents over a yearlong period ending July 1, 2016, with Chicago ranking as the only one of the country’s 10 largest cities to experience a drop in population over that same time.
With the state mired in an ongoing two-year budget stalemate that has left it billions in the red, states like Wisconsin have even taken to recruiting residents who might be thinking of abandoning Illinois.
“Over the last three years, more people have left Illinois than any other state,” Kurt Bauer, president and CEO of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, told the McHenry Times. “Here in Wisconsin, we have a labor shortage; we need people. If you want to work and are drug free, you can find a good, middle-class life in Wisconsin with a low cost of living and an economy that’s really doing well."
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker boasted recently that the state’s unemployment rate has dipped to 3.7 percent, significantly lower than the national average and that in Illinois. Around that same time, Walker announced gummi candy-maker HARIBO will build a manufacturing facility in Pleasant Prairie that will create 400 jobs.
“Wisconsin is the best-kept secret in the Midwest,” Bauer said. “With our strong economy, we have something to sell.”
The overall labor force participation rate in Wisconsin is considered one of the best in the nation, with more employment now than at any other time in the state’s history.
Meanwhile, the Chicago metro had to deal with the second straight year of significant population loss: 19,570 people left in 2016, and 11,000 left in 2015. Those types of numbers are expected to continue in the near term, especially if nothing is done about the unemployment rate, the budget, high property taxes and crime.
And the bad news gets worse: Researchers say most people exiting Illinois are younger working-age adults who would have been potential long-term taxpayers.
“Illinois’ fiscal situation makes the state a walking time bomb that could explode at any time,” Bauer added.