1 2009 Illinois Workforce: Women & Minorities
The Illinois Workforce
Economically, this past year (2008) has been a challenging one. The Illinois labor force
declined 1.2% between 2007 and 2008, to 6.7 million. The average annual
unemployment rate for 2008 increased to 6.5%. The nationwide unemployment rate in
2008 was 5.8%. African Americans, Hispanics, teenagers, and those with low education
levels have been disproportionately affected by the rising unemployment rate. Illinois
experienced 2007 poverty rates of 11.9% versus the U.S. rate of 13%. In the state,
poverty levels were highest among blacks and Hispanics.
Among Illinois industries, government, education, and health services added employees
in 2008. The financial, information, leisure/hospitality, and professional/business
services industries contracted. Mass layoffs were concentrated in manufacturing but also
cut across the transportation, construction, retail, and finance industries. In Illinois, a
total of 32,100 jobs were lost annually between 2007 and 2008, and the recession shows
no sign of letting up.
Top Illinois employers are the government, health care, education, insurance, and retail.
Illinois residents are fairly well educated, with a college attendance rate above the
national average. Education is critical in today’s economy. The Illinois high school
graduation rate averages 75% and exceeds the U.S. rate of 68%.
Illinois working women made gains in some areas against men, but continue to lag in
other areas. More than one-half of the Illinois population is female, but the labor force
participation rate is lower for women than for men. African Americans have the highest
labor force participation rate among Illinois women, and achieved closer parity with
same-race men than whites or Hispanics. White women have lower unemployment
levels and higher wages than African American and Hispanic women.
Education levels continued to increase among Illinois women. Among Illinois women
over age 25, 18.2% had a bachelor’s degree. This compares with 18.8% of Illinois men.
Just over one in ten (10.6%) Illinois women held a graduate or professional degree,
compared with 11.5% of Illinois men over age 25. Both men and women in Illinois are
more likely than national averages to hold higher education degrees. Among all U.S.
residents, 17.3% of men and 16.9% of wo men held a bachelor’s degree, and 10.6% of
men and 9.3% of women held a graduate or professional degree. With growing career
opportunities in traditionally male occupations, women have experienced a steady
increase in wages. For the past ten years, they have made progress relative to men,
although they still lag behind in pay. In Illinois, the 2007 median wage for women was
78% of the median wage for men.
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