IDES - Meet IDES Director Jay Rowell

Meet IDES Director Jay Rowell

Meet IDES Director Jay Rowell

Meet IDES Director Jay Rowell

Since his appointment by the Governor in June of 2011, Jay Rowell has been actively engaged in state and national workforce system reform policy and legislation.  As Director of the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), he has focused on the twin goals of enhancing the integrity of the unemployment insurance program and turning IDES into Illinois’ Employment Office.

Mr. Rowell’s accomplishments in the workforce system include:​

  • Lead state negotiator on the 2011 Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund reform legislation.  The legislation laid out a path to solvency for the state’s trust fund that was more than $2 billion in debt.  The legislation also reduced taxes on Illinois businesses during the next eight years by $400 million and created the necessary tools to prevent fraud and crack down on criminal abuse.

  • Reorganized IDES into an employment-focused state agency through the creation of a Business Services Division. Business Services Coordinators (BSC) work with employers to recruit the skilled workforce they need to grow.  To ensure employers find the right match, the IDES BSCs use our job board launched in 2012, which showcases more than 160,000 jobs.

  • Leveraged tax credits to incentivize hiring.  By streamlining and automating the application and approval process, IDES has tripled the number of people hired using the Work Opportunity Tax Credit.   This program designed to help the harder to employ individuals (ex-offenders, TANF recipients, etc.) has grown from a $66 million program in 2011 to more than $185 million in 2013.  In 2013 alone, the program helped more than 85,000 Illinoisans get a job. 

  • Re-envisioned the job fair into hiring events.  Employers now post their openings in and IDES employees match the skill sets required in those jobs against the 500,000 resumes in our database.  IDES sends those resumes to the employers and schedules interviews at the hiring event.  IDES has helped thousands get jobs through this model and has submitted this process to the White House as a national best practice.

  • Delivering on the Governor’s priority of finding jobs for veterans. In 2013 alone, IDES has helped more than 12,000 veterans get a job. This was accomplished through partnerships with the US Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Heroes, Chase’s 100,000 jobs initiatives and creating innovative programs with the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs such as the​.

  • Recovered $120 million in fraudulent payments made to claimants over 30 years through a partnership with the Internal Revenue Service that allows IDES to garnish the tax refunds of individuals adjudicated to have defrauded the unemployment system.

  • Stopped more than $230 million in improper payments before they were made through implementing a series of data cross matches such as the National Directory of New Hires, Driver’s License Information, and Incarceration Records. 

  • Spearheaded efforts, along with the Illinois Department of Labor, to crackdown on employers who intentional misclassify employees as independent contractors.  In the first quarter of 2014, IDES has identified three times more misclassified workers than in the same period in 2013 including four times the unreported wages.

  • Selected by his peers as the Vice-Chair of the Unemployment Insurance Committee and previously appointed as the Chair of the Labor Market Information Committee of the National Association of State Workforce Administrators.​​​​​
Mr. Rowell accomplished these changes even while being forced to cut IDES’ budget by more than 25 percent largely due to federal funding decreases.  For his accomplishments he received International Association of Workforce Professionals’ 2012 Public Policy Award and was selected as a 2014 Governor Edgar Fellow at the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois.

Prior to leading IDES, Mr. Rowell was the Political Director for the Illinois Senate Democrats, the Deputy Director for the Chicago City Clerk, District Director for Senator Cullerton and Representative Feigenholtz, and the Staffing Director for a Chicago catering firm.

Mr. Rowell has been active in organizations that shape government policy through his efforts with the Illinois League of Conservation Voters, Independent Voters of Illinois, Midwest Democracy Center and the Illinois Birth Center Task Force.  Mr. Rowell earned his Juris Doctorate from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and Bachelor of Arts in Public Communication from American University in Washington D.C.  Rowell is an avid bike rider and lives in Chicago with his wife and daughter.