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Report: Manufacturing jobs outpace high-tech growth in Chicago area

Updated: February 25, 2013 4:30PM



Manufacturing in “moderately” high-tech categories such as food manufacturing is more likely to grow throughout the Chicago region — and is already growing faster than the nationwide rate — than are high-tech jobs in industries such as computers, electronics and pharmaceuticals, according to a report issued Monday.

Manufacturing employment increased 5 percent regionwide from 2010 through the third quarter of 2012, compared with 4 percent nationwide during that time period, according to the report by the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Center for Urban Economic Development.

Nearly half — 47 percent — of the regionwide manufacturing jobs are in suburban Cook County, with the largest sectors being fabricated metal products (16 percent) and food manufacturing (12 percent).

In 2011, the Chicago region had 411,000 manufacturing jobs, second to Los Angeles, and manufacturing’s percentage of Chicago-region jobs rose from 1.08 times the national percentage in 2001 to 1.11 times that percentage in 2011.

Despite the recent growth, the region still had 29 percent fewer manufacturing jobs, or 185,000 fewer, in 2011 than 10 years earlier, in 2001, the report showed.

Among high-tech jobs, pharmaceutical manufacturing was down about 1 percent, or about 190 jobs, between the first quarter of 2010 and the third quarter of 2012. Computer and electronics manufacturing was down about 2 percent, or 490 jobs, during that same period.

The study’s author, Howard Wial, executive director of UIC’s Center for Urban Electronic Development, said local public policy would be best focused on expanding and empowering the region’s manufacturing strongholds.

“There is nothing wrong with moderately high-tech industries — Germany has developed a very productive and innovative manufacturing sector based on them,” he said.

The study analyzed 14 counties in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.



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