NorthBridge Blog

Pat DuganAmid all the hubbub about industrializing our country again and bringing jobs home, we’re getting by with a little help from newfound friends. We’ve found an enthusiastic partner in China.

In mid-March, Chicago hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for a new manufacturing plant set to build 846 new railcars for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) to replace nearly half of the agency’s current railcar fleet. This new facility and business operations are spurred by Chinese investment.
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Pat DuganWe’ve mentioned it before, but yet another study now confirms that Chicago is a leading jobs creation hub when it comes to technology positions.

The Brookings Institution has verified that we ranked ninth among the U.S. metro areas demonstrating the greatest increase in tech jobs between 2013 and 2015. Chicago added about 10,000 jobs over that span.

It translated into a growth rate of 5.8% a year for Chicago, which put it in the same bracket as New York and Portland, though still not as fast a growth rate as seen in Austin (16.1%) or even Indianapolis (13.9%). San Francisco and San Jose, naturally, kept up a strong pace, growing 12% over those two years.

Digital jobs cluster in the top 10 metro areas nationwide, according to the report, accounting for 46% of those jobs. In 2015, Chicago had 94,000 digital services jobs, while the U.S. had 2,782,000 digital positions in all.


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Pat DuganFrankly, there can never be enough support given to our military veterans as they adjust to civilian life, try to launch careers, and are otherwise rewarded with the same kind of opportunities so many of the rest of us take for granted.

That’s why this program, Code Platoon, needs to be recognized for the good work it’s doing on behalf of those vets in the Chicagoland area.

Intended exclusively for vets, the program is an accelerated curriculum that teaches the basics of the Ruby full-stack programming language over the course of 20 weeks of combined remote and in-person training. As a code “boot camp,” it immerses students who have very little or no tech background in both instruction and actual programming, and also supplies them with job counseling, interview prep and employer matching.

technology-1283624_640It’s a necessarily initiative, because post-9/11 veterans find it harder than other jobseekers to land full-time work.
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Pat DuganWe’ve previously posted about the move downtown by McDonald’s and other companies who have re-located to urban sites after decades in the suburbs. That’s not only true in our area, but it’s a trend that’s taking hold across the rest of the Midwest, too.

Jobs Following TalentIn Cleveland, there’s an increase in the use of old building for new business ventures and move-ins, plus new construction. The fact that the Cavaliers and Indians had great seasons, and the RNC came to town, have helped invigorate the downtown vibe there.


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Pat DuganChicago’s unemployment rate has steadied out at around 5.8%, down from 6.4% just a couple of years ago. That’s good news for the overall regional economy, though the problems downstate and other endemic difficulties in the Illinois economy are still with us.

But for some companies, it’s made it tougher to find and hire the kind of skilled workers or specialists they need to fill certain roles. Just a few examples of that?
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Pat DuganWe’ve mentioned repeatedly how Chicago is becoming a real hotbed of opportunity for tech jobs, and this latest survey justifies that judgment. Real estate firm CBRE has been keeping track of who’s renting commercial office space in various nationwide markets, and Chicago has “cracked the top ten,” according to this coverage in Crain’s Chicago Business.

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Pat DuganWhen you think about autonomous/driverless cars - the kind being worked on by Google, Uber, every car company under the sun and (at least until recently) Apple, you think about the Bay Area as being Ground Zero for all that innovation.

Surprisingly, Chicago is also a hot spot for driverless car development, and for job openings that occur because of it. Not Austin, or Detroit: Chicago was in second place behind the Bay Area in terms of new job listings, according to a USA TODAY story that cited data from website Paysa.Automomous Tech Jobs

Cambridge, MA was in third place, with 27 openings; Michigan accounted for only 15 jobs, spread across three cities.


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Pat DuganCare to take a guess? There are a lot of good jobs in the region, especially in the Chicago area, so it’s not that easy. But if you said any of them were in the medical professions, you’d be right on track.

In fact, all five of the jobs at the top of the list (prepared by career site Zippia using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Illinois Department of Employment Security) are in medicine!
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Pat DuganWe’ve been fortunate in keeping up a good head of steam in the Chicago area in terms of job growth, especially compared with the rest of the state and other areas of the Midwest, and a new report from Manpower shows we’re still on the right track.

The report indicates that job growth should keep up through the fourth quarter of 2016, with a healthy 18% of employers indicating they’d be hiring new hands during the October-December period.


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Pat DuganIf you follow all the recent stories about the employment scene in Chicagoland and Illinois, you might have gotten a headache.

Who can blame you?

The stories can seem contrary and confusing…

We can attest to the fact there are companies in Chicago looking to hire. The jobs that are at the top of companies’ lists are as diverse as salespeople, industrial psychologists, actuaries, physical therapists, underwriters and computer research scientists. Construction workers are at a premium, especially.

But Chicago and booming segments and technology-driven industries are only one part of the jobs landscape across Illinois. They haven’t been enough to power a recovery that reaches everybody.
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pat_small2015 was a frustrating year for anyone interested in making headway in jobs growth in Illinois. It wasn’t a disastrous year, but it wasn’t the kind of rebound that’s needed to fuel future prosperity.

In fact, the state lost a net 3,000 jobs in 2015, which isn’t anywhere near the dropoffs of the recent recession, but it wasn’t encouraging – and steep losses in manufacturing, to the tune of 14,000 jobs over the course of the year, show how fragile a recovery can be, especially when it’s impacted by factors well outside the state line.

The main culprit? Exports have slowed as China and Europe’s economies have struggled. That’s affected manufacturing jobs, and Illinois has been one of the states to suffer.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Illinois lost an alarming 16,300 payroll jobs in December alone, which rolled back much of the progress the state made over the rest of the year.

Despite being the most populous state in the region, Illinois is still having a tough time bouncing back, even when there’s a relatively strong national economy, and even markets like Detroit are making gains.


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pat_smallIt’s a mixed bag: for temp agencies like North Bridge, there can be an upside to bad job news, as employers strapped for talent in an economy where they can’t justify full-time hires will turn to temporary staffing, but we’d still rather see the economy at full steam for everyone.

But the federal government gave job analysts an unfortunate surprise recently, as they reported that September posted a surprisingly small 142,000 increase in U.S. employment. The report from the Labor Department was well short of the 203,000 – 206,000 increase forecast by economists.
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