Report: Illinois’ larger cities aren’t best for job hunters

The best place in Illinois to find work isn’t Chicago but suburban St. Charles, according to a new analysis.

Financial site WalletHub looked at 121 Illinois cities and graded them on 16 key indicators of labor-market health. That includes employment growth, median monthly starting salary, unemployment rate and a host of other factors.

The only city south of I-80 that cracked the top 50 was Edwardsville, at No. 47.

WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzales said that many places outside of the suburbs had jobs with lower pay in areas where the cost of living was higher. WalletHub’s analysis measured commute time, health benefits, housing affordability and other factors to rank cities.

“Looking at the average starting salary and then adjusting for the cost of living, they just can’t compete at all,” she said.

Many of the larger cities in Illinois – such as Chicago, Champaign, Peoria and Bloomington – were all near the bottom of the list. Gonzales said cost of living was a key factor.

“Specifically, affordability, time spent commuting, affordability of rent, transportation cost, all of those things are going to rank these cities lower,” she said.

The exceptions were Aurora and Naperville, two of the state’s larger cities. Both ranked in the top half of 121 cities that WalletHub analyzed.

St. Charles, located in Kane County west of Chicago, was the best city in Illinois for job seekers. On the opposite end were East St. Louis and Harvey, two towns with high unemployment rates, population losses, crime and low graduation rates.

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