Chicago’s Growing Job Market

Posted: Oct 17  |  By: Parker + Lynch

How does the Windy City stack up against national trends?

Five years after the end of the 2007-2008 national recession, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is cautiously optimistic about the continued recovery of the U.S. job market.

The unemployment rate “has fallen considerably and at a surprisingly rapid pace,” Yellen said in an August 22 speech. “A key challenge is to assess just how far the economy now stands from the attainment of its maximum employment goal.”

On a national level, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has reported steady gains with a year-over-year dip in the unemployment rate by 1.3 percent. But how does the Chicago job market compare?
According to a report released this month by the BLS, nonfarm employment in the Chicago-Joliet-Naperville metropolitan area is up by 0.9 percent in 2014 – a year-over-year increase of 38,000 jobs from 2013.
Although job growth in Chicagoland is reportedly just below the modest national average of 1.8 percent, several industries have experienced booming growth in the metropolitan area this year.

Thriving Industries

“Most of the industries that Parker + Lynch works with [in the Chicago area] have been pretty durable post-recession and have gotten better, year-over-year, since 2010. The two industries that lagged were construction and real estate,” says Jeramy Kaiman, Chicago-area managing director for Parker + Lynch. “Those two industries, from what we’ve seen, have done more hiring this year in accounting and finance roles than they have in probably the previous four years combined.”

Indeed, Chicago’s overall construction industry has enjoyed year-over-year job gains of at least 4,000 per month since June of this year – ahead of the national trend for construction employment, according to the BLS. Government jobs in Chicago increased by 3,900 from August 2013 to August of this year, also higher than the national average for the same timeframe.

The industry to boast the most year-over-year gains in the Windy City was reportedly professional and business services. Although its 2.4-percent growth rate hovered below the national average of 3.5 percent for the same period, professional and business services jobs have grown steadily, adding more than 13,000 Chicago jobs per month since June 2010. Since the stability of many service jobs are dependent on consumer spending, experts often consider this an indicator of a strengthening economy.

Modest Losses

Despite overall gains that mimic national trends, two local industries recorded year-over-year losses of more than 1,000 jobs. Manufacturing roles fell by 2,300, and financial activities employment dropped by 1,300 between August 2013 and August 2014. These industries experienced gains of 1.4 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively, on a national scale.

In-demand Positions

As accounting and finance executive search providers in the Chicago job market, Parker + Lynch recruiters have their collective fingers on the pulse of local hiring trends. According to Kaiman, the hottest positions this year for area companies have been staff accountants, senior accountants, financial analysts, senior financial analysts and senior internal auditors.
As companies prepare for the continued implementation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act – the 2010 legislation which, when implemented, will mark the most expansive changes to financial regulation since the Great Depression – many in the financial industry are choosing to beef up their accounting and auditing capabilities.
“We definitely have more clients in the financial services space that are being affected by the ripple effects of [the Dodd-Frank legislation],” Kaiman says. “There’s no question that they’re gearing up or have geared up for the implementation of Dodd-Frank.”

Decreased Supply, Increased Demand

Across all industries, as employment continues to grow in the post-recession economy, Chicago hiring officials can expect to experience greater challenges in recruiting qualified professionals to fill specialized roles.
“The market continues to tighten. There’s no question about that,” Kaiman says. “The pool of talent available to service the jobs that are open is continuing to shrink.”

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