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Residential Department: Spotlight: Illinois: June 2018


Spotlight: Illinois

The Prairie State’s economy is recovering but still hurting.

It’s a party that’s 200 years in the making.

The Prairie State, as Illinois is known, celebrates its bicentennial this year with a series of events leading up to Dec. 3 — the anniversary of when it became the 21st state.

Festivities are planned all over the state. There are Abraham Lincoln impersonators, a cross-state motorcycle ride to be led by Gov. Bruce Rauner and even an official beer — 1818 Prairie State Farmhouse Ale by the Hand of Fate Brewing Company.

The state boasts a storied history. Think Union Stock Yards and Chicago’s rise as an economic powerhouse, the gangland scene during Prohibition, The Second City comedians, Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls and, of course, NFL football’s Monsters of the Midway, otherwise known as Da Bears.

It’s present, however, can be summed up in one word: lackluster. Illinois has recovered from the Great Recession, but growth has been tepid.

The unemployment rate for Illinois stood at 4.7 percent this past February, but that’s worse than the national rate of 4.1 percent. In fact, the state has had a higher unemployment rate than the U.S. average every month except for one in the past decade, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Illinois is one of only three states in the U.S. to see a decline in population this decade, dropping 0.2 percent, from 12.83 million in 2010 to 12.8 million in 2017, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. The other two states experiencing population declines during the period were Vermont and West Virginia. Overall, the U.S. population has grown by 5.5 percent over that same time.

The state reported a per capita personal income of $52,808 in 2017, which ranks 15th in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. But personal-income growth has lagged behind the national average over the past decade, growing at 2.3 percent compared with the national growth rate of 3.2 percent.

Illinois’ woes are exacerbated by a feuding state government that failed to pass a budget for two straight years. Lawmakers finally passed one last year, but the damage was done: Illinois had the worst credit rating of any state in the nation at the time.

Despite its struggles, Illinois still has a lot going for it, however. It’s the sixth most populous state in the nation. Chicago is the third largest city in the U.S., with a population of 2.7 million. The state also is home to the headquarters of 14 of the world’s 500 largest companies, including Boeing, Caterpillar and State Farm.

skip to 3 Cities to Watch>>  

Home sales and prices

r_2018-06_Spotlight_chart-1.jpgThe Illinois housing market has recovered since the Great Recession, with median home prices and the number of closed home sales on a steady upward slope over the past 10 years. The statewide median home price was $205,000 last year, according to the Illinois Realtors. That’s up 46 percent from 2011, when the median home price was $140,000.

The number of closed home sales climbed to a high of 111,501 in 2017, up from 77,297 in 2011. The inventory of homes for sale has dropped from a 9.9-month supply in 2011 to a 3.3-month supply in 2017. In 2011, homes sat on the sat market, on average, for 106 days, according to Illinois Realtors. Last year, that number dropped by nearly half, to 56 days.


The unemployment rate for Illinois has fallen sharply since the height of the Great Recession. In January 2010, more than 750,000 people in the state were out of work, and the unemployment rate hovered at 11.3 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Since then, the unemployment rate has dropped considerably, to 4.7 percent as of this past February.

The downside is Illinois has consistently trailed the rest of the nation when it comes to unemployment. Even today, Illinois has an unemployment rate that is 0.6 percentage points higher than the national rate of 4.1 percent. Year over year as of this past February, the state’s job-growth rate was 0.8 percent, according to the Chicago Tribune, compared to 1.6 percent for the nation overall.

Delinquencies and foreclosures     

r_2018-06_Spotlight_chart-2.jpgIllinois has seen a steady decline in foreclosure activity over the past five years, according to Attom Data Solutions. The number of filings (defaults, auctions and bank repossessions) has dropped from 41,467 in first-quarter 2012 to 13,440 in first-quarter 2018, according to the real estate data company. Filings dipped to 12,977 in third-quarter 2017, the lowest level since before the recession.

Illinois’ foreclosure-inventory rate was 0.8 percent in November 2017, down from 1 percent a year earlier, according to the most recent statistics from CoreLogic. Still, the Illinois foreclosure rate as of this past November was higher than the national average, which was 0.6 percent.

Sources: Attom Data Solutions, Chicago Tribune, City of Moline, CoreLogic, Crain’s Chicago Business, Enjoy Illinois, Illinois 200, Illinois Realtors, The First Three Songs, Springfield Advantage, U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Census Bureau

3 Cities to Watch


Like many state capitals, the main employer in this city of 115,000 is state government, with 17,800 employees. Springfield also capitalizes on one of its most famous citizens, Abraham Lincoln, who started a law practice and began his political career in the city. Springfield is home to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.


r_2018-06_Spotlight_city.jpgThe city, including the neighboring community of Urbana, has a population of more than 128,000. It’s the home of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, one of three campuses for the university. REO Speedwagon founding band member Neal Doughty studied engineering at the campus and named the band after a truck he was studying in class. 


Not many communities so small can boast the headquarters of a corporation with a name and brand known around the world. Moline, with a population of just more than 42,000 in western Illinois, is the home of Deere & Company, the maker of the famous tractors. Founder John Deere built his plow factory in the community in 1848. Steamboats delivered raw materials up the Mississippi River, which also provided waterwheel power for the plant.

What the locals say

“Chicago is a big and complicated place. If you look at the economy of the region, you do see areas that are doing well. … There have been a couple of pundits who have described it as a sort of a duckbilled platypus. It has significant swaths of the city that look like Manhattan, but you have parts of the city that look like [the worst parts of] Detroit.”


Geoff Smith  
Executive director,  
Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University


Jim Davis is editor of Scotsman Guide Residential Edition. Reach him at (800) 297-6030 or

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