CHICAGO (AP) - Gov. Bruce Rauner signed an executive order Monday he said is a first step toward reducing disproportionately high unemployment rates among Illinois minorities and veterans.
The order requires labor groups, contractors and subcontractors who work with the state to submit a report within the next 30 days with the number of minorities and veterans participating in training or apprenticeship programs, which often are a pathway to full-time jobs.
The Winnetka Republican also ordered the state’s personnel agency to review state law on hiring and contracting preferences for veterans and to prepare a report on the ability of minority- and veteran-owned businesses to obtain state contracts.
Rauner said the reviews will help his administration determine what future actions may be needed to address unemployment rates he described as “way too high.”
“We can’t manage what we don’t measure,” he said.
Rauner issued the order after participating in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day service project, where Rauner and his wife helped paint banners and rally volunteers at Chicago’s Gage Park High School. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel also participated.
Unemployment rates for African-Americans have been about double the overall unemployment rate for more than a decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2013, the most recent year for which data are available, Illinois’ overall unemployment rate averaged 9.1 percent, while the average rate was about 17.1 percent for African-Americans and 11.1 percent for Hispanics.
Illinois also had one of the highest unemployment rates for veterans - 9.2 percent - of any state in 2013, Bureau of Labor Statistics data show.
Rauner said he’s working to ensure his own administration is diverse. Though he said he’s still “in midstream” of hiring a cabinet and other top positions, he noted his lieutenant governor, Evelyn Sanguinetti, is Hispanic and his pick to the lead the Illinois State Board of Education, the Rev. James Meeks, is African-American.
He said the review of hiring and contracting preferences will be due by June 30. The study on state contracts for businesses owned by minorities and veterans must be presented to the governor and the General Assembly - with recommendations on how to eliminate any disparities in how contracts are awarded - by Dec. 31.
“We need to ensure jobs and business opportunities are open to everyone, but especially those who serve our country or are underrepresented in the economy,” he said.