Labor force recovery has varied by race, ethnicity, with starkest differences for black residents

Although the Chicago region has made strides since the 2007-09 recession, recovery has been slow and lagging behind many peer metropolitan regions. The economic downturn created significant economic losses for the region’s residents, including reduced employment opportunities and diminished earnings. Workers in the Chicago region continue to face challenges today even a decade after the Great Recession. This is particularly true for the region’s residents of color, many of whom were disproportionately burdened by the economic downturn. ON TO 2050 emphasizes the importance of inclusive growth to help each resident access economic opportunity, and therefore to improve the region’s economic success. The plan highlights economic disparities among the region’s residents, which are particularly stark for black residents. 

Passengers embarking and disembarking from a train at a station platform

This policy update analyzes the 2007-09 recession’s effects on labor force trends, including the disproportionate impact on certain populations and how they’ve recovered from the recession. This update also assesses the relationship between economic and demographic trends, with an emphasis on how migration patterns contribute to the region’s changing labor force. This analysis assesses two primary indicators of economic performance:

  1. Labor force participation rate: the proportion of the population 16 years and older that is employed or unemployed but seeking work, and
  2. Unemployment rate: the proportion of the labor force that does not have a job but is actively seeking work.

In general, population decline has diminished the region’s talent pool, which threatens our ability to meet labor demands. In addition, the region’s population, and subsequently its labor force, have grown increasingly diverse. A diverse labor force is key to fostering an inclusive economy and provides many other benefits to the economy, and its potential growth. Yet, without inclusive growth that allows all racial and ethnic groups to participate in and benefit from the labor market, these benefits will not be fully realized.