The State of the Economy...and the Presidential Election

Illinois. Political lore has it that people vote their wallets; in large part, they choose a leadership team based on their immediate sense of economic well-being and confidence about the future. Peace and prosperity tend to favor an incumbent, while a distressed economy can spell trouble for a candidate's reelection bid. What follows are snapshots of the economic conditions in the 10 states with the most votes in the Electoral College, which elects the president and vice president.

If you want to know how the recession is playing in America, come to Illinois. It has tracked the nation's job growth fairly well for five years, never straying more than half a percentage point in either direction. That's not bad, given the state's previous record in national recessions.

"We're used to getting hit in the head, so when we're kicked in the shins it doesn't feel as bad," says Robert Dederick, chief economist at Northern Trust Company. "Basically, we're proceeding about in line with the nation as a whole."

Barring unforeseen circumstances, that means slow growth for many months and continuing consumer hesitancy. While Illinois has avoided the defense-related cuts that have battered the East and West coasts, its white-collar workers in Chicago and its farmers downstate have endured a moderately bad year. Recently announced layoffs at Chicago-based Amoco and Continental Bank just add to the uncertainty.

"The recession has created a lot of structural unemployment," says Glenn Peebles, economic forecaster for the University of Illinois Bureau of Economic and Business Research. Because businesses are restructuring and downsizing, employment will shrink this year, then grow by 1.7 percent next year, according to WEFA Group, a Pennsylvania forecasting firm.

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