Some of the credit for the slowdown of departing families could go to the record-low unemployment rate of 4.1 percent and recent efforts by the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to attract and keep big employers, such as United Airlines, so residents don’t leave in search of jobs, says DCEO spokesman Mark Harris. Last year, the state’s monthly job growth led the country in April and July, “which has never happened twice before in one year in recorded history,” Harris says. “Since January, 2004, Illinois has gained nearly 158,000 new jobs, which leads the Midwest, so from an economic-development standpoint the Illinois economy is in a good place.”
The state is strategically located for shipping by way of rail, road, water, and air — a top selling point for Triumph Foods, which will add 1,000 jobs at a new processing plant in East Moline, Harris says. Schneider National, one of the world’s largest transportation and logistics companies, will create 400 new jobs over the next two years at a new operating center in the Gateway Commerce Center, in Edwardsville. Plus the state has nine offices around the world in such places as Brussels, South Africa, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and the Middle East to recruit and attract business. In late 2004, such efforts persuaded Astellas Pharma Inc. — a company created from the merger of two leading Japanese pharmaceuticals — to establish its North American headquarters in the Chicago suburb of Deerfield, Harris says. So when Illinoisans do pack their bags, where do they go?
The United study says most Illinois residents chose a wide range of destinations: California, Texas, Florida, Arizona, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, and Washington. At the same time, Illinois gained the most newcomers from California, Florida, Texas, Arizona, and New York.
Joan Villa is a freelance writer based in White Heath.