By Megan Hickey

CHICAGO (CBS) — Jobless claims are holding steady in Illinois. More than 68,000 people filed for unemployment last week, which is almost the same number from the previous week. Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 3.2 million people in the state have filed jobless claims.

CBS 2 and CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey are Working for Chicago during these tough economic times.

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For months CBS 2 has been covering the financial toll the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on everyone’s lives, but the big picture in Illinois is a bit sunnier than one might think.

There is no doubt Illinoisans are hurting, but data from the state shows some residents actually had more money in their pockets after the pandemic hit. And they’re still spending it.

The suffering has not been across the board. According to state data, per capita income climbed to $66,224 in the second quarter of 2020 from $59,896 in the first. And personal income continued to grow in the third quarter.

“The stimulus package actually has increased personal income around the country,” said Phillip Braun, a professor at Kellogg School of Management

Braun said those stimulus checks from the federal government are what put more money in residents’ pockets compared to 2019.

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“It is surprising, but at the same time it’s good, right? The stimulus packages did what they were supposed to do, which is help people,” he said.

What might be even more shocking is that people have continued to spend money at almost at pre-pandemic levels. An Institute of Government and Public Affairs study tracked credit card receipts in 2020 and found that while grocery spending rose and other categories dropped at the beginning of the pandemic, spending in those other areas like beauty and apparel picked up again by the fall. “

“Revenue loss was was large, but it wasn’t as large as we thought,” said Kenneth A. Kriz, Director, of the Institute for Illinois Public Finance.

Kris authored the study, the findings of which were refreshingly positive for an unprecedented global health crisis.

“One of the interesting kind of patterns is that overall consumption is back to about where it was,” he said. “It’s down maybe 5% a little bit less than that.”

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And while Illinois forecasted a $60 million decline in tax revenue in 2020, that ended up not being the case. The state was only down about 2% from the year before.

Megan Hickey