Illinois’ labor force shrank by 17,100 people in July, according to a release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. BLS also reported that the state’s unemployment rate fell to 6.8 percent from 7.1 percent. However, the entire decline in the July unemployment rate came as a result of workers quitting the workforce.

This grim news comes after a disastrous June, when 21,600 people dropped out of the Illinois workforce – more than any other month in state history.

In the last four months, a total of 63,000 Illinoisans have quit the labor force. Workers quitting the workforce has been the primary factor driving the unemployment rate down to 6.8 percent from 8.4 percent in the same period.

Meanwhile, Illinois’ working-age population has grown by 17,000 in the last four months, leaving a total of 80,000 working-age Illinoisans out of the workforce and unaccounted for since March.

As a result, Illinois’ labor force participation rate slid to historic lows. The state’s labor force participation rate, which measures the percent of the adult population that seeks work, hasn’t been this low since 1979. It’s been in a free-fall since the Great Recession began.

Illinois gained 10,300 payroll jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ establishment survey. However, the state remains down 5,900 private-sector jobs on the year, the worst record of any state in 2014. Only Illinois and Alaska are down jobs on the year.

Illinois remains 170,000 jobs away from recovering to the number of jobs the state had in January 2008, when recession job losses began. Seventeen states have already recovered all the jobs they lost during the recession. The Land of Lincoln remains furthest away from recovery of any state in the U.S.

 Michael Lucci is Director of Jobs and Growth at the Illinois Policy Institute.

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