Analysis: Immigration covers up huge decline in Illinois workforce participation



(The Center Square) – A new analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies shows a dramatic decline in the labor force participation of working-age Illinoisans over the past six decades.

The analysis shows the labor force participation rate of working-age men without a bachelor’s degree in Illinois fell from 89% in 1960 to 71% in 2023.

The report notes that one of the arguments for allowing in so many immigrants is that the low unemployment rate means that no potential workers are available. But what gets ignored is the increase of working age people not in the labor force in Illinois.

Steven Camarota, director of research and lead author of the report, said there is a consensus that the enormous decline in labor force participation in states like Illinois is contributing to serious social problems.

“Not being in the labor market obviously is going to significantly increase your risk of being in poverty or dependent on welfare, but there is also good evidence that it hinders economic growth and creates a fiscal burden for taxpayers,” Camarota told The Center Square.

The American population is getting older, and there are fewer younger people of working age. With a tight labor market and unemployment in the U.S. at low levels, there simply aren’t enough workers to meet demand.

Working-age immigrants in Illinois have not experienced the same decline in labor force participation. At the same time that the labor force numbers were falling, the immigrant share of the overall labor force increased dramatically from 6% in 1970 to 18% by 2023.

About 14,000 migrants have entered Illinois over the past year, most of which were bused up from Texas.

A coalition of congressional leaders, Illinois business officials and immigration advocates wants to get migrants entered into the workforce.

U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, joined a recent news conference hosted by American Business Immigration Coalition Action to urge President Joe Biden to expand work authorizations and help address the labor shortage crisis.

“There are jobs that go vacant because American workers are not taking these jobs,” Durbin said. “These immigrants are ready to step in and take the hardest, dirtiest, roughest jobs imaginable, because they always have.”



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