After a years-long stretch in which the city’s economy substantially outpaced that of the state, Illinois’ economic malaise appears to have spread inside the Chicago city limits.
New data indicate employment growth in the city has flatlined, with only 510 more private-sector jobs in the city than in the same period a year ago and the number of employed Chicagoans almost dead even.
That stands in contrast to previous data indicating that, after several years of solid growth that led the metropolitan region and the state, the total number of jobs in Chicago proper was at the highest level in decades, driven by 2-plus percent annual job growth in the booming central area of the city.
The new figures come from Illinois Department of Employment Security surveys of households and employers as crunched by World Business Chicago, the city’s private-public corporate recruitment agency. WBC is chaired by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Seven metropolitan areas lost jobs over the month, with Chicago leading the way, dropping 3,700 jobs.
Following Chicago, Springfield shed 500 jobs (-0.4 percent); Peoria dropped 500 jobs (-0.3 percent); Decatur lost 300 jobs (-0.6 percent); Bloomington payrolls declined by 300 (-0.3 percent); Rockford dropped 200 jobs (-0.1 percent); and Davenport-Moline-Rock Island shed 200 jobs (-0.1 percent). Champaign-Urbana payrolls saw no change.
Fortunately, some areas of the Prairie State increased payrolls over the month. Lake-Kenosha County gained 700 jobs (+0.2 percent); Carbondale payrolls increased by 600 (+1.1 percent); Elgin added 600 jobs (+0.2 percent); Danville gained 100 jobs (+0.4 percent); and Kankakee added 100 jobs (+0.2 percent).
Although some areas experienced growth during the month of March, on net employment declined. Particularly concerning is the dip in Chicago area payrolls, as Chicago has been a catalyst in Illinois’ job recovery.
The last few winters haven’t been particularly cold. Natural gas remains historically cheap. Unemployment is low. Yet customer nonpayments to Peoples Gas, which heats Chicagoans’ homes, soared last year.
The amount Peoples reported as uncollectible in 2017 was $58.2 million, more than twice the $26.5 million it recorded in 2016, according to filings with the Illinois Commerce Commission. The 2017 figure was 5 percent of Peoples’ revenue for the year. It also was well above the $37 million in uncollectible bills at Peoples in 2014, the notorious “polar vortex” year, when heating bills spiked.
To put 2017 in further context, uncollectible accounts at far larger Nicor Gas, which serves much of suburban Chicago, were just $11 million, less than 1 percent of its 2017 revenue.
…Adding… And then there’s this just around the corner…