Chicago may no longer be the “Hog Butcher for the World” and the “City of the Big Shoulders” as poet Carl Sandburg wrote in 1914, but manufacturing remains the region’s number one industry according to a new report from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and HSBC Bank.
“Revival in the Heartland: Manufacturing and Trade in Chicago” provides an overview of the city’s current place in manufacturing, while outlining challenges and opportunities for the future.
Giving a generally positive picture of Chicago’s role as a manufacturing center, the report also contains sobering messages about the challenges the region faces. Chicago “lags behind its potential” the report states, declaring: “Manufacturing in Chicago is an old heavyweight slugger, punching below its weight.”
The authors also point out that exports and employment fell in 2008 and 2009 with the onset of recession and while exports have recovered, Chicago’s employment levels remain below 2007.
In 2001, there were 329,229 manufacturing jobs in Cook County, the largest number of jobs of any industry. By 2012, the number had shrunk to 194,189 jobs, a loss of 135,000 jobs or 41%. In the meantime other areas, such as health and social administration, retail trade and tourism have surpassed manufacturing employment.