Nearly 40K Illinois jobs missing since before pandemic orders three years ago

(The Center Square) – Three years after Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a stay-at-home order closing businesses and restaurants statewide, Illinois still is struggling to get back to normal.

On March 16, 2020, Pritzker ordered a halt to in-person dining at restaurants. March 20, he issued a stay-at-home order for businesses he declared nonessential.

“I fully recognize that in some cases, I am choosing between saving people’s lives and saving their livelihoods. But ultimately, you can’t have a livelihood without a life,” Pritzker said three years ago. “This will not last forever, but it’s what we must do to support the people on the front lines of this fight and the people most vulnerable to its consequences.”

Unemployment spiked with more than 1 million claims filed in the following weeks. Since then, the governor’s orders restricting business were ratcheted down. Despite that, the state’s job market has failed to recover about 39,500 jobs, according to the Illinois Policy Institute.

Chris Davis of the Illinois chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses explained how this hurts businesses across the state.

“Illinois has the second worst unemployment rate in the country, and it is severely impacting small businesses,” Davis told The Center Square. “The NFIB Small Business Index indicates that 47% of small businesses are attempting to hire, and of those 47%, 90% are reporting a lack of qualified applicants.”

Former state Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, R-Elmhurst, who held office during the pandemic, told The Center Square that the governor hurt businesses in Illinois with his shutdown.

“Based on my experience in the legislature, the Democratic supermajority is extremely hostile to business,” Mazzochi said. “Small businesses were hurt the worst by Gov. Pritzker’s COVID response.”

Earlier this month, Pritzker was asked to reflect on the last three years.

“One that I often think about is could we have had a mask mandate earlier, should we have, would that have saved more lives,” Pritzker said. “As it is, we saved an awful lot of lives I think with the restrictions that were in place and people followed them importantly.”

The industries hit the hardest over the past three years according to IPI analysis are the leisure and hospitality sector, losing 7,400 jobs, and manufacturing, which lost 7,300 jobs.

Pritzker still has a monthly disaster proclamation in place. It’s expected the consecutive executive monthly proclamations will end May 11 alongside the end of federal COVID proclamations.

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