Despite sweeping job cuts in manufacturing nationwide, Chicago remains a prime location for jobs, high wages, and specialized industries. According to a new report, the metropolitan area has gained manufacturing jobs more rapidly than the country as a whole in the last two years.
The report, published this week by the Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois, details the area’s resurgence in manufacturing. Between the first quarter of 2010 and the third quarter of 2012 (the latest data available), the number of manufacturing jobs increased by 5 percent in the Chicago area, versus 4 percent in the nation as a whole.
The findings also show that manufacturing accounts for a “disproportionately high” percentage of the metropolitan area’s overall employment, which is tied to the region’s strong specialization in manufacturing. Rising wages in China is another factor in employment growth, and is likely to accelerate more job creation in Chicago.
The uptick in manufacturing jobs comes at a time when the nation is rebounding from massive job cuts. Cook County in Chicago’s metropolitan area reportedly lost more than a quarter of its manufacturing jobs between 2001 and 2010. Yet, even with the loss in manufacturing jobs, the city of Chicago and the metropolitan area saw more industry growth in specialized fields over the past few years.
In 2011, metropolitan Chicago manufacturers specialized in primary metals, pharmaceuticals, electrical equipment and appliances, fabricated metal products, and printing, while the city’s top five strong manufacturing industry specializations were food, textile product mills, apparel, leather and electrical equipment and appliances.
Even more, the findings reveal that Chicago-area average earnings surpassed the country’s overall manufacturing average—$60,340—by 11 percent.
To ensure that manufacturing remains a strongpoint in the Chicago and metro area, the report calls on public policy to strengthen the industry in existing strong areas of “manufacturing density.” Furthermore, it emphasizes how the Chicago-area manufacturing policy efforts need to be better coordinated to grow the area’s industry.