Illinois has been locked in a financial struggle for years, with Governor Bruce Rauner only signing his first state budget in June 2018 after taking office in 2015. One of the big issues in negotiations was the governor’s stance on not raising taxes. Now that the budget is approved, Illinois workers can feel a little more confident, especially if they work for the state. The signed plan includes wage increases for state workers.
But despite its difficulties, Illinois shines in a few key financial areas. Illinois boasts the fifth-largest state economy by GDP, for one. And while its public sector is hurting, its private sector is accelerating. This year, 37 Illinois companies made the Fortune 500 list and far many more grace the most recent Inc. 5000 ranking. However, not all Illinois local job markets are the same. Their strength varies significantly.
So before you completely write the Prairie State off your short list, consider the job-seeker-friendliness of more than 120 Illinois cities. WalletHub ranked them all based on 16 key indicators of labor-market health, ranging from “employment growth” to “median monthly starting salary” to “unemployment rate.” Continue reading below for the winners, additional expert commentary and a full description of our methodology.
Best Illinois Cities for Jobs
Overall Rank (1=Best)
‘Job Market’ Rank
‘Socioeconomic Environment’ Rank
|1||St. Charles, IL||69.47||2||18|
|6||Vernon Hills, IL||67.10||6||15|
|8||South Elgin, IL||66.19||8||14|
|13||Crystal Lake, IL||64.21||20||10|
|19||Downers Grove, IL||62.69||25||13|
|21||Elk Grove Village, IL||61.84||13||53|
|23||Hoffman Estates, IL||61.51||21||42|
|24||New Lenox, IL||61.32||45||8|
|25||Orland Park, IL||61.20||22||44|
|27||Highland Park, IL||61.00||41||12|
|30||Villa Park, IL||60.59||33||31|
|T-31||Buffalo Grove, IL||60.33||38||26|
|35||Arlington Heights, IL||59.44||29||51|
|37||Lake in the Hills, IL||59.09||65||5|
|38||Morton Grove, IL||58.92||18||67|
|39||Tinley Park, IL||58.90||37||47|
|42||Homer Glen, IL||58.69||57||19|
|44||Carol Stream, IL||58.10||52||32|
|45||Glendale Heights, IL||57.96||35||58|
|46||Rolling Meadows, IL||57.77||16||85|
|50||West Chicago, IL||56.98||59||39|
|51||Glen Ellyn, IL||56.94||82||11|
|52||Crest Hill, IL||56.92||23||78|
|54||Des Plaines, IL||56.88||43||61|
|55||Oak Forest, IL||56.75||56||49|
|57||Mount Prospect, IL||56.46||36||80|
|61||Park Ridge, IL||55.80||55||57|
|64||Melrose Park, IL||55.14||32||99|
|69||Machesney Park, IL||53.79||63||71|
|73||Round Lake Beach, IL||53.64||70||66|
|76||Hanover Park, IL||53.41||75||64|
|78||Loves Park, IL||52.23||84||68|
|80||East Peoria, IL||51.90||88||69|
|85||Oak Lawn, IL||51.16||81||87|
|88||East Moline, IL||49.66||78||95|
|91||Blue Island, IL||48.91||53||108|
|93||Granite City, IL||48.44||95||89|
|94||Rock Island, IL||48.42||104||70|
|95||Oak Park, IL||48.17||102||77|
|96||Elmwood Park, IL||48.09||92||100|
|105||South Holland, IL||46.51||106||86|
|110||Chicago Heights, IL||39.27||109||114|
|113||North Chicago, IL||38.39||114||112|
|115||Park Forest, IL||37.07||118||103|
|118||Calumet City, IL||33.89||117||118|
|121||East St. Louis, IL||26.23||121||120|
Ask the Experts
In search of additional insights into the Illinois job scene, we posed the following questions to a panel of leading experts in the fields of human resources, economics and more. You can check out their bios and responses below.
- Will the IT industry still play a major role in Illinois’s economy in the coming decades? What other fields are expected to grow the most in the near future?
- Which are the biggest challenges faced by Illinois’s job seekers today?
- Looking just within Illinois, what are the most common mistakes that job seekers make?
- What types of programs have proven effective in helping unemployed people to find work in Illinois?
- Should benefits be extended in Illinois for unemployed people who have been out of work for a long period?
- Should unemployed people from Illinois that receive help from state and local administration be required to do something in order to earn their unemployment benefits? If so, what?
Ask the Experts
In order to identify the best and worst Illinois cities for jobs, WalletHub compared 121 Illinois cities using 16 relevant metrics that speak to two key factors important to job seekers: the local “Job Market” and the area’s “Socioeconomic Environment.”
Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for job seekers. Finally, we determined each city’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample. Below is a complete list of the metrics we used, along with their corresponding weights.
The cities in our sample were selected based on population size and the availability of reliable data. Furthermore, we considered the city proper in each case, excluding surrounding metro areas from our analysis.
Job Market - Total Points: 67
- Job Opportunities: Double Weight (~14.89 Points)
Note: This metric was calculated by subtracting the unemployment rate from the number of job openings per number of population in the labor force.
- Employment Growth: Full Weight (~7.44 Points)
Note: This metric measures the rate of annual job growth, adjusted for the working-age population growth.
- Monthly Average Starting Salary: Full Weight (~7.44 Points)
Note: This metric was adjusted for the cost of living.
- Unemployment Rate for High School Graduates: Full Weight (~7.44 Points)
- Unemployment Rate for Residents with at Least a Bachelor's Degree: Full Weight (~7.44 Points)
- Industry Variety: Full Weight (~7.44 Points)
- Full-Time Employment: Half Weight (~3.72 Points)
Note: This metric measures the number of part-time employees for every 100 full-time employees.
- Share of Workers in Poverty: Full Weight (~7.44 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of employed residents whose incomes are below the poverty line.
- Disability-Friendliness of Employers: Half Weight (~3.72 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of persons with disabilities who are employed.
Socioeconomic Environment - Total Points: 33
- Median Annual Income: Full Weight (~5.50 Points)
Note: This metric was adjusted for the cost of living.
- Time Spent Working & Commuting: Half Weight (~2.75 Points)
Note: This metric was calculated by adding the average commute time with the length of the average workday.
- Health Benefits: Half Weight (~2.75 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of employees with private health insurance.
- Housing Affordability: Full Weight (~5.50 Points)
Note: This metric was calculated as follows: (median annual household income divided by median house price) plus (median annual household income divided by price of rent for a two-bedroom apartment).
- Annual Transportation Costs: Full Weight (~5.50 Points)
- Safety: Full Weight (~5.50 Points)
Note: This metric measures the crime rate.
- Social Life: Full Weight (~5.50 Points)
Note: This metric measures the number of cafés per capita plus number of nightlife options per capita.
Sources: Data used to create these rankings were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Center for Neighborhood Technology, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Council for Community and Economic Research, Indeed and Yelp.com.
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