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Illinois lost nearly 20,000 manufacturing jobs in 2008

by Deb Weinstein
Jan 21, 2009


Illinois shed 19,924, or 2.1 percent, of its manufacturing workforce last year, according to a report Manufacturers’ News Inc. released Wednesday.

The losses were felt across the board and included industrial machinery and equipment, lumber and wood, electronics, and rubber/miscellaneous plastics.

Primary metals were particularly hard hit, falling 8.8 percent, a drop that coincides with the closing of Lunt Manufacturing in Schaumburg.

Kane County lost 4.4 percent of its industrial jobs, followed by Cook and Lake Counties which each saw declines of 2.5 percent. DeKalb and Will Counties each lost 1 percent.

There were, however, two bright spots. Food processor Jel Sert Co., of West Chicago, and Siemens Energy and Automation, a unit of Siemens AG, which added an Elgin plant for its wind turbine gear drives, increased staff.

Manufacturers’ News Inc., an Evanston organization that compiles manufacturing statistics for all states, and manufacturing associations said that although the faltering economy contributed to the drop, it's part of a longstanding trend.

Steven Capozzola, communications director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, noted that Illinois has been bleeding manufacturing jobs since 2000. Citing U.S. Department of Commerce data, Capozolla said Illinois has lost 196,300 jobs, a decline of 22.5 percent, over the past eight years.

"Even in good times, or relatively good times,” he said, “we’ve been losing jobs.”

Jim Nelson, vice president for communications and marketing for the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, said the decline started earlier, in the 1990s.
 
Despite advantages such as “one of the best transportation systems in the world,” Nelson said, surrounding states' incentives such as tax abatement and reductions, along with offers to train local workforces for free, have helped draw manufacturing businesses away from Illinois.

Nelson said it’s not just outside inducements, but in-state pressures, such as a costly workers compensation program along with high taxes that encourage companies to leave.

"It’s a difficult road when the governor of this state accuses manufacturers of not paying their fair share and has sought to increase our tax liability,” he said.

Nelson said foreign competition is another factor, and cited Brazil, India and China—referred to as BRIC—along with Vietnam, South Korea and Russia, as countries that are drawing manufacturing jobs away from the state.

Capozolla agreed that foreign competition is an issue. He also said discussions about green industry and stimulating the economy are positive, but can only reverse manufacturing’s decline—in Illinois and in the country as a whole— if these programs include provisions to buy materials from domestic producers.

"[All states] are getting clobbered by most, especially trade from China,” he said, adding, “but that’s for the federal level to tackle.”