“Manufacturing in Illinois is going to always be relatively strong,” said Tom Gimbel, CEO of the Chicago-based staffing firm LaSalle Network. “You’ve got Caterpillar and Deere. … That’s Midwestern products and Midwestern values. It mirrors the types of people that are out there. You’ve got people that want to have a (steady) job for 30 years.”
One key area that helped create new manufacturing jobs last year was auto parts, whose makers enjoyed a healthy 2012 with the resurgence of auto sales due to factors such as the improvements in the economy to pent-up demand – many would-be buyers held off through the recession. Chrysler, for instance, increased production at its plant in Belvidere and said it needed 1,800 new workers to do so.
That growth started to slow late last year as overseas auto sales slowed, National Association of Manufacturers chief economist Chad Moutray said.
That’s one unknown that could have a big influence on Illinois’ manufacturing health this year, Challenger said. “It’ll be important for the state’s economy to see consumer spending on autos hold up in 2013,” he said.
New factory jobs, though, typically require a heavy dose of training to deal with an increasingly technical world. Community colleges now offer a wide range of manufacturing-related credentials in anything from logistics to quality control, said Jim Nelson, vice president of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association.
“Everybody who wants to work in today’s manufacturing environment needs some post-secondary education,” he said. “The K-12 system does go a long way to preparing students for the world of work, but because we now rely so much on robotics, computer animated systems.”
It’s the same way in the health care industry, said Joel Shalowitz, a physician, professor and director of health industry management at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
“We are really entering an era where somebody’s going to need a higher level of training – and not just education, but training,” Shalowitz said.
Even with reasonably strong job creation, many of the post-recession jobs tend to pay lower wages than jobs lost to the downturn. The median hourly wage in Illinois in 2007 was $15.80, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. Adjusted for inflation, that’s the equivalent of $17.14 in 2011, the most recent year for which the BLS has data. But the actual hourly wage was $16.95.
A series of recent stories by The Associated Press found a similar trend around the country. Half the 7.5 million U.S. jobs lost to the Great Recession were in industries that pay middle class wages but only 2 percent of the 3.5 million gained back are in such industries. Seventy percent, in fact, are in low-wage businesses. Technology has done away with many jobs.
Some but certainly not all of the jobs expected to be created by President Obama’s health care law, though, would carry higher-than-average pay.
“There’s technology jobs, so that’s developing new products, things like drugs, devices, procedures,” Shalowitz said. “Not just the scientific area, but also the management of it. You (also) need marketing.”
A medical device-maker, Cook Medical, opened a plant in Canton last year, for instance.
One area that isn’t expected to produce new Illinois jobs this year is government employment because of the state’s massive budget deficit pension obligations.
Government employment dropped almost 1 percent in Illinois last year. That’s a loss of 7,100 jobs, down to 834,500, according to the state Department of Employment Security.<< previous 1 2 3