2016’s Best & Worst Illinois Cities for Jobs
With the third-highest unemployment rate in the U.S. and an infamously incessant budget crisis that recently shut down its state government, Illinois doesn’t appear to be a job seeker’s paradise. But those issues are two sides to a multifaceted story, and the strength of local job markets varies across Illinois, as in any other state.
For those entering or transitioning within its labor market, the Prairie State shines in a few key areas worth noting during the job search. Illinois boasts the fifth-largest state economy by GDP, for one. And while this Midwestern state’s 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, with several Illinois businesses nabbing spots in the top 100. Health care and technology are two of the state’s fastest growing industries.
So before you completely write the Prairie State off your short list, consider the job-seeker-friendliness of 162 Illinois cities. WalletHub’s analysts 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.
‘Job Market’ Rank
‘Socioeconomic Environment’ Rank
|5||Vernon Hills, IL||66.60||1||38|
|8||South Elgin, IL||63.99||14||12|
|10||Downers Grove, IL||63.73||17||20|
|11||Lake Zurich, IL||63.67||9||31|
|12||St. Charles, IL||63.65||8||62|
|16||Elk Grove Village, IL||62.37||12||87|
|17||Buffalo Grove, IL||62.27||22||50|
|18||Round Lake, IL||61.85||11||70|
|24||New Lenox, IL||61.36||26||46|
|31||Highland Park, IL||59.84||33||43|
|35||Hoffman Estates, IL||59.53||30||71|
|36||Rolling Meadows, IL||59.42||19||113|
|38||Des Plaines, IL||59.36||37||42|
|40||Villa Park, IL||59.01||57||24|
|44||Fairview Heights, IL||58.36||56||37|
|45||Morton Grove, IL||58.08||36||73|
|49||Orland Park, IL||57.80||40||81|
|50||Crystal Lake, IL||57.74||72||23|
|51||Park Ridge, IL||57.65||47||78|
|52||La Grange, IL||57.62||69||35|
|56||Arlington Heights, IL||57.04||58||72|
|58||Mount Prospect, IL||56.78||51||107|
|61||Tinley Park, IL||56.51||70||63|
|62||Melrose Park, IL||56.38||63||80|
|64||Franklin Park, IL||56.31||24||152|
|69||Machesney Park, IL||55.58||64||100|
|71||East Peoria, IL||55.55||67||94|
|75||Glen Ellyn, IL||55.33||96||27|
|77||Evergreen Park, IL||55.21||71||97|
|79||Round Lake Beach, IL||55.03||44||142|
|81||Carol Stream, IL||54.92||75||89|
|82||Prospect Heights, IL||54.88||61||118|
|86||East Moline, IL||54.77||49||134|
|91||Crest Hill, IL||54.19||65||128|
|92||West Chicago, IL||54.10||83||102|
|93||Loves Park, IL||53.67||95||84|
|98||Glendale Heights, IL||53.22||76||135|
|100||Oak Park, IL||53.11||112||53|
|100||North Aurora, IL||53.11||117||54|
|103||Oak Lawn, IL||52.88||102||85|
|105||Rock Island, IL||52.47||118||52|
|107||Lake in the Hills, IL||52.15||114||75|
|108||Hanover Park, IL||52.15||94||131|
|109||Lake Forest, IL||52.08||137||33|
|110||Elmwood Park, IL||51.93||115||83|
|112||Palos Hills, IL||51.70||98||127|
|115||Homer Glen, IL||51.43||105||126|
|125||Oak Forest, IL||49.91||140||56|
|127||South Holland, IL||49.82||124||122|
|129||Country Club Hills, IL||49.56||125||125|
|143||Mount Vernon, IL||46.76||139||139|
|145||North Chicago, IL||46.59||99||162|
|147||Blue Island, IL||46.28||141||141|
|154||Granite City, IL||43.87||152||123|
|155||Park Forest, IL||42.94||158||88|
|156||Chicago Heights, IL||42.05||153||148|
|160||Calumet City, IL||38.50||159||157|
|161||East St. Louis, IL||30.60||161||160|
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 persons 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?
In order to identify the best and worst Illinois cities for jobs, WalletHub’s analysts compared 162 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 the weighted sum of each city’s individual-metric scores comprising its overall score, which we used to construct the final ranking. 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 unemployed 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 Median 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.
- Percentage of Persons Employed but Living Under Poverty Line: Full Weight (~7.44 Points)
- Percentage of Persons with Disabilities in the Workforce: Half Weight (~3.72 Points)
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, Areavibes, Indeed and Yelp.com.
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