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Our view: A deserving day off for workers

Published: Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

For the lucky ones, Monday is a day off. Maybe you’ll sleep in, fire up the grill and enjoy one last summer hurrah.

Monday is Labor Day, a day to celebrate the social and economic achievements of workers. Everyone who works deserves recognition for the contributions they bring to the economy. A day off that honors workers seems the least the country can do.

Granted, those who aren’t working – but looking for a job – deserve a day to be recognized too. It hasn’t been easy for years for many of our residents.

The picture might be getting a little brighter: In July, the unemployment rate in Illinois was 6.8 percent – down from 9.2 percent a year ago, according to the Joint Economic Committee for the U.S. Congress.

Locally, McHenry County’s jobless rate fell to 5.7 percent, compared with 8.2 percent in July 2013.

Statewide, private sector jobs in Illinois grew by 11,200 jobs in July. Since February 2010 (the national low point for private-sector employment), Illinois private-sector employers have added 260,400 jobs, according to the Illinois Economic Snapshot from the Joint Economic Committee. There were 445,400 Illinois residents unemployed during July, down from a recent high of 753,500 in January 2010.

Still, there are 78,300 more people unemployed in Illinois than when the recession began, according to the Joint Economic Committee. The state’s unemployment rate lags behind the country’s, which was 6.2 percent in July, and other Midwest states.

And while private sector employment is growing, Illinois ranks near the bottom of the country in overall job creation since the Great Recession ended. The Associated Press reported July 18 that Illinois ranked 42nd in job creation, with 5.81 million jobs in June 2014, up 3 percent from 5.64 million in June 2009, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

There is still much that can be done to improve the working climate in Illinois – and we should be pressuring our lawmakers to take action.

The 67 percent “temporary” personal income tax increase and 46 percent corporate income tax rate passed in 2011 should be allowed to sunset in January. Lower taxes could encourage business growth. There have been improvements in workers compensation – it was announced in July that the National Council on Compensation Insurance recommended a 5.5 percent cut in the rates for next year – but statewide, business leaders have said more needs to be done to create a more hospitable business environment.

And, of course, we’d like to see serious action that actually addresses the state’s ever-growing pension liability. Those who earned a pension deserve to know what they can count on, and all taxpayers deserve to know the state is committed to easing taxpayers’ burden.

Labor Day is the unofficial end to summer. It’s often also considered the kick off to earnest campaigning for the November elections. We encourage all our readers to educate themselves on where candidates stand when it comes to improving the state’s work environment.

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