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Flash Index Shows Slow Improvement In Illinois Economy

University of Illinois economist J. Fred Giertz, who compiles the monthly Flash Index to the Illinois economy.

The economist who prepares the University of Illinois’ Flash Index to the Illinois economy says if things continue on their present course, Illinois could return to economic growth in about half a year.

The Flash Index, released this week by the university’s Institute of Government and Public Affairs, measured the Illinois economy at 95.1 for September, up from 94.6 in August, and a substantial increase from May’s 92.8. That was the low point for the Illinois economy, compared to a February reading of 105.7, just before the COVID-19 outbreak put a damper on the economy. (See the Flash Index archive here.)

U of I economist Fred Giertz says a growing economy, which would measure above 100 on the Flash Index, is still a few months away.

“I would think, probably at least six months or more, if certain things go well,” said Giertz. “But again if there’s another shutdown, things of that sort, that would be a reversal. If there’s a vaccine all of a sudden, that would probably speed up things.”

The Flash Index analyzes Illinois tax receipts to provide a rapid snapshot of the state’s economy. Giertz says that for September, sales and corporate tax receipts were up from the same month last year, when adjusted for inflation, while individual income tax receipts were down.

Giertz says state employment figures, which arrive about a month after the Flash Index, have backed up the readings of the Flash Index, by showing a continued decline in the jobless rate, after it rose with the onset of the pandemic.

Illinois’ unemployment rate for August was 11.0%, a decline from July’s adjusted rate of 11.5%, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

Giertz says that Illinois’ unemployment rate had finally reached parity with the national rate earlier this year after a long time of being higher. But he says Illinois’ jobless rate is once again higher than the national rate, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re not the worst state by any means,” said Giertz of Illinois’ unemployment rate. “Some states like Rhode Island, Massachusetts, California, these are even worse. But again, we’re above the national average.”

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Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows has been covering local news for WILL Radio since 2000, with occasional periods as local host for Morning Edition and All Things Considered and a stint hosting WILL's old Focus talk show. He was previously a reporter at public radio station WCBU in Peoria.

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