CHICAGO — The evolving Illinois economy remains resilient and has outperformed some of its neighbors over the last few years, but the state lags the nation in job growth and faces a decline in good paying jobs, which in turn is driving median income levels down, according to a new independent study released yesterday. The most notable shift in the state’s evolving economy is the strong growth seen in lower-paying service sector jobs and the decline in better paying positions, especially in the manufacturing sector, according to the report co-authored by Northern Illinois University and the Chicago-based nonprofit Center for Tax and Budget Accountability.“Over the past 20 years, Illinois working families have experienced the replacement of higher-paying jobs, especially in manufacturing, with lower-paying service sector jobs, including those in the politically popular gaming industry. Even most of those who remained employed experienced a drop in real wages while the cost of living continues to rise,” said one of the report’s authors, Paul Kleppner, of NIU’s office for social policy research.In 1990, more than one in five workers in the state, or 20.4%, worked in manufacturing jobs, making it the leading employment sector, according to the report, “The State of Working Illinois.” The state has lost 26% of its in-state manufacturing jobs since that time compared with a 20.8% drop in manufacturing jobs in the entire Midwest and 20.9% in the nation. Currently, only 13.2% of jobs are held in manufacturing, putting that sector behind professional and business services at 17% and education and health services at 15.1%. Retail jobs represent 12.2%. Overall, those jobs considered to be lower-paying account for 30.7% of all non-agriculture private sector positions.Since 2001, higher paying jobs have grown by 1.7% compared with a national rate of 5%, while service jobs grew at a clip of 9.6% compared with the national rate of 13.6%. The impact is being felt on median household income growth, which at $49,328, is down 10% from 2000 levels. The future picture looks no better, with more than half of the jobs expected to be created over the next decade providing an income below the current median.The report stressed the growing importance of education as a factor in employment. “In today’s modern economy, it is clear that you have to learn to earn,” CTBA’s executive director Ralph Martire said. Individuals with less than a high school education were three times more likely to be unemployed than those with at least a bachelor’s degree, and only those with college degrees have seen their wages rise at a greater rate than inflation over the last two decades.The study found African Americans and Latinos continue to lag their white counterparts in income levels and education fails to fully eliminate the disparities. The pay gap between men and women continues to shrink but has not been eliminated. In 1980, the differential was $7.26 per hour while the figure fell to $3.05 last year. Women still earn on average 18% less than their male counterparts. The gap is 6.2% higher than the national average.The state’s civilian workforce currently totals more than 6.7 million. State gross domestic product totaled about $507 billion last year, making it the fifth largest in the nation. State GDP grew 3% over the previous year behind the national rate of 3.4%. The Chicago metropolitan area produced about 75.6% of the state DGP in 2005.
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