SmartAsset, a website that provides financial advice to young professionals, compiled the survey data by comparing the tax returns of workers making over $100,000 during the survey period of 2019 to 2020.
The Prairie State finished third, behind N.Y. and Calif., for a net loss of sought-after workers under 35. The District of Columbia and Mass. came in fourth and fifth behind Ill. for a net loss of those workers, the survey found.
Todd Maisch, president and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, said the survey numbers are small, but businesses in Ill. continue to be concerned about retaining workers.
Ill. gained 6,527 highly paid professionals during 2019 and 2020, but it lost 9,386 comparable workers, SmartAsset found. That is a net loss of 2,859 top-talent workers.
“Whether you are a trucking firm or a McDonald’s franchisee or an IT consultant, everybody is competing for talent,” Maisch said.
“[Ill.] is still attracting talent, but the big thing that comes to my mind is, can we keep it?”
The most popular destinations for rich young workers are Wash. state, Texas and Fla., SmartAsset found. Maisch said highly paid workers in their 30s are looking for mid-career lifestyles.
“Another state might not have the Chicago lakefront, but it can have a lot of things that Chicago has,” he said.
“Recruiters from other states say, ‘We’re safer. We’re more stable. You won’t have to worry about the government zigging and zagging on you all the time.’ That’s our competition.”
In recent years, several marquee Ill. companies have moved out of their suburban campuses and into downtown Chicago, Maisch said. Allstate moved downtown, and Motorola and McDonald’s did the same thing.
“Now the white-knuckle issue for these folks is whether we can make Chicago work, or not,” Maisch asked.
The Bears may not be winning, but Chicago is an attractive place, Maisch said, including the arts, the symphony, great parks, world-class restaurants and entertainment.
“But increasingly, people are asking whether the benefits outweigh the costs,” he said.
The costs become more apparent the closer people get to having families, Maisch said. Chicago falls short when it comes to safety and school quality.
“Not everybody wants to take their baby to daycare on the CTA,” Maisch said. “People have to be thinking about the quality of the schools. They are thinking about safety.”
Beyond the career opportunities, young workers are looking for the kind of lifestyle that they can afford and enjoy, Maisch said.