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Workforce challenges for 61605 By Cheryll Boswell

If unemployment is so low, why does 61605 still have the highest unemployment rate in the country? The unemployment rate in Peoria is 5.6%. The unemployment rate for 61605 is 20.9%. According to InsideGov, 61605’s unemployment rate is 11.8% higher than the national average. The State of Illinois has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country for African Americans and 61605 continues to have unemployment higher than the national average. Experts will argue there are several reasons why African Americans have a higher unemployment rate across the country and in Central Illinois. Some economist will argue weak job creation, loss of manufacturing jobs and lack of a State budget. Others will argue there are employment barriers for many African Americans because they lack education. Human Resource experts will defend hiring discrimination. Many businesses will present evidence there is a skills gap in the labor force. Lots of jobs will not be filled because the skills employers need don’t match with the applicant’s ability.

Illinois had the highest manufacturing job losses in 2016, along with the weakest job growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows only 28,400 jobs were created in 2016. Maybe, just maybe, if we had a state budget for two years Illinois’ economy would be in much better shape.

Structural barriers that include geographic segregation also present a challenge for many minorities that live on the South Side of Peoria. The effects of race and criminal records have a profound effect on employment outcomes. 60% of inmates in Illinois prisons are African American. African American men are more likely to be arrested and/or go to prison. These prison statistics have a significant negative impact on employment outcomes. Most businesses will not hire a person with a criminal background.

High school dropouts will experience higher unemployment rates and reduced earnings compared to those with more education. Research shows that people who drop out of school will earn much less than high school and college graduates. This is primarily due to they are less likely to obtain employment, and those who are employed will work fewer hours on an annual basis. Over the long-term, the average dropout will spend more time in poverty.

While hiring discrimination is illegal, if you’re over 50 it might become even more challenging to get a job because of your age. Some companies are finding not so discrete ways to discriminate when asking your age. On their website, one particular company would ask when did you graduate from college and give you a time frame to answer in dropdown boxes. If for instance, you graduated before 1975 and their answers only went to 1980, you might be too old per their requirements.

The labor force is expected to reach more than 164 million people by 2020. The gap between the skills needed by employers and the skill level of workers already employed presents a challenge for many businesses in Central Illinois and across the U.S. Businesses have a role in helping to address these challenges. They must partner with organizations and help meet these workforce needs.

Over the next few months, I will be writing articles in conjunction with the employment manager, Doretha Jamison, at METEC Resource Center to provide employment solutions. Doretha can be reached at 309 676-3832 for additional questions.