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April 27, 2014

Illinois' problems bring joy to Indiana

From the email this week, I sensed a profound need by Hoosiers to find joy in the problems of Illinois. Our neighbors to the west are fighting their way through a mess of their own making. They have forced themselves to raise taxes and cut services to correct, in part, their failure to fund their state and local pension plans.

Illinois’ difficulties prompted Indiana’s leaders to hunt like vultures for carrion on the other side of the border. We celebrate every family or firm that moves from the Land of Lincoln to the Hoosier state. Are there no Hoosiers moving to Illinois?

Readers of this column urged me to compare the economic records of the two states and thereby prove that our policies are superior to those of our embarrassed neighbors.

When it comes to private sector jobs, Indiana has out-performed Illinois. We had a 1.7 percent decline in jobs from 2007 to 2013; Illinois fell by 3.2 percent over that period. We ranked 24th among the states in private job growth, while Illinois ranked 35th in the nation.

Neglected, however, by those who would clog dance to this news, is that the nation saw a decline in private sector jobs of just 1 percent during those six years. Yes, Indiana did better than Illinois, but we did not do well.

We didn’t go down in manufacturing jobs as much as Illinois (14.2 percent) or the U.S. (13.5 percent); our fall was limited to 10.6 percent. Whereas, Illinois fell by 30 percent in the construction sector and the U.S. fell by 24 percent, Indiana managed a drop of “only” 18 percent.

Everybody wants to see more jobs in professional, scientific, and technical areas. Across the nation, the number of such jobs grew by 6.1 percent; Indiana by 5.3 percent and Illinois by 3 percent. Should the Hoosier heart be warmed by outpacing Illinois while failing to exceed mediocrity?

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