Chicago manufacturing index shows highest reading since early 2012

Chicago business got off to a great start in 2013. A major factor behind the better business conditions in the city is a much-improved manufacturing sector. And what's behind the revitalization of manufacturing? Jobs. A recent report found manufacturing jobs growth in Chicago outpaced the national average from 2010 to 2012. These findings were reinforced by the latest reading of an important index, which found employment played a role in the big lift Chicago overall manufacturing saw during February . As such, Chicago recruiters can help firms find top tier employees to boost their manufacturing workforce.

Index hits nearly one-year high
February saw an encouraging improvement in Chicago manufacturing, according to the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) – Chicago. Its Chicago business barometer registered 56.8 in the second month of 2013, better than the 55.6 of January and well up from the 50.0 in December. A reading above 50 indicates expansion and below 50 hints at contraction.

The February reading is the highest level of the index since April 2012, and suggests manufacturing in the Midwestern hub is regaining some of the strength it lost during the recession. MarketWatch, a Dow Jones-owned news source, said many economists predicted the month's index would only reach 54.0.

Overall, the employment gauge of the index changed very little in February, dipping just 0.3 points to 55.7 from January's 56.0. However, despite the slight drop, ISM – Chicago said employment continued to expand. February's employment reading was also a marked increase from the 46.8 found in December.

Employment during February was also better than levels seen during past decade. From 2003 to 2012, the mean index reading for employment was 50.2, suggesting manufacturing recruiters are seeing more talent search requests and are helping more businesses improve operations by acquiring skilled workers. During that same time period, the mean business barometer reading as a whole was 54.6.

New orders see largest rise
The overall growth in manufacturing during February was also due to a notable increase in new orders; the month's reading registered 60.2, the highest level in 11 months and up from January's 58.2.

The uptick in new orders helped offset a minimal decrease in production, which slipped 0.7 points in February to 60.2, a number that is still better than the mean levels seen during the previous decade.