Category Archives: Chicago

Hog Butcher No More, but Service Purveyor to Same?

By Bill Testa

For Chicago (and the U.S.), no one would argue that economic conditions have approached a state of full recovery. Almost three years into the expansionary phase of recovery from the 2008–09 recession, Chicago’s unemployment rate remains lodged near 9 percent. Yet, these three years of expansion may be telling in other ways. That is, comparing Chicago’s current experience with its past recovery experiences can provide insights into the structure and outlook for Chicago’s economy.

As seen in the chart, the Chicago area’s unemployment rate is typically slower to recover from recessions than the U.S. overall. This is somewhat to be expected, since Chicago and Midwest recessions are typically sharp and deep owing to the region’s preponderance of manufacturing companies. Following steep recessionary declines, it takes a while for these and other companies to re-engage the work force.

A further glance at the chart reveals that the Chicago area’s economy was especially tardy in its labor market recovery following the short and shallow recession that ended in the fourth quarter of 2001. The Chicago area’s unemployment rate did not converge with the national rate until very late in 2006. Today, by contrast, ten or more quarters past the end of the national recession, the Chicago area’s unemployment rate seems to be making substantial progress toward convergence with the rest of the U.S.

One of the underlying reasons for this difference in experience is probably the different behavior of the manufacturing sector in these two periods. In the current period, manufacturing has been growing since the end of the recession both in the nation and the Midwest. In contrast, the period surrounding the 2001 recession saw manufacturing declining markedly. From 2000- 2003, the Great Lakes states surrounding Chicago lost almost 700,000 manufacturing jobs on net—representing about one-fourth of all U.S. manufacturing jobs lost in that period.

To be sure, the Chicago economy does not have the deep manufacturing orientation that it once had—at least not directly. Once “hog butcher to the world,” Chicago is now more of a provider of high end business and financial services. Today, Chicago is the capitol of the risk product financial exchanges and a center of vibrant job opportunities in accounting, law, management consulting, business meeting/travel, and corporate headquarters operations. Nonetheless, looks can be deceiving, in that these service operations are often vitally linked to goods-producing service customers. That is, the Chicago economy continues to sell its business services to Midwest and national goods producers, both in agriculture and especially in manufacturing. Accordingly, regional and national trends in goods production continue to matter to Chicago’s economic performance and well-being.

The table lays out the Chicago area’s job performance during the ten quarters following each of the past two recessions. To begin with, as measured by total private sector job growth, we see that Chicago’s overall performance following the 2001 recession was abysmal. During the national recovery, the Chicago metropolitan area (CMA) experienced a jobs decline of –2.6 percent or over 100,000 jobs. In contrast, so far in the current recovery, private sector payroll jobs in the CMA have expanded by 1.2 percent.

Which particular industry sector differences explain this overall performance? In the recent period, the CMA shares some important trends with the national economy. In the aftermath of the housing market collapse, for example, job growth in the construction sector is much weaker. State and local governments also continue to downsize today, unlike the post-2001 expansionary period. So too, financial activities such as banking and real estate continue to shrink during this expansion. The latter presents a challenge for Chicago, as its economy is more concentrated in financial activities than the nation (column 6).

But perhaps the most concentrated industry for Chicago is “professional and business services.” In this sector, and unlike the earlier experience, the region has achieved net job growth of 7 percent this time around, versus a loss of 2 percent at this point in the post-2001 expansion.

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A look at the past behavior of this industry reveals that, during the last expansion, CMA employment in business and professional services did not bottom out until almost 2004 (Figure 3 below). Nationally, the sector also performed poorly. However, the national business services sector outperformed Chicago’s business service sector, hitting bottom nationally several quarters ahead of the CMA trough.

To understand Chicago’s business services performance, we must look to trends in manufacturing. Chicago remains a major wholesaler, transporter, and warehouser of goods that are produced in the broader Midwest region. It is here in Chicago that all six major North American railroads come together and the largest North American intermodal freight operations (i.e., between truck and rail car) take place. As shown in the table, employment in the CMA’s “transportation and warehousing (and utility)” sector has expanded by 5 percent over the past ten quarters, versus a decline of 5 percent during the post-2001 expansion.

It is likely that Chicago’s vaunted business and professional services sectors are also being led by demand from the surrounding goods-producing customers. The final chart shows a strong correlation (0.88 out of 1.0) between Chicago’s business/professional service job growth and manufacturing job growth in the Great Lakes states that look to Chicago as a regional business hub. The correlation in job growth between Chicago’s own professional services and manufacturing sectors is similarly high, at 0.86).

Midwestern policy leaders need to understand these correlations in order to influence the CMA’s job prospects and economic conditions. Certainly, the CMA economy has an important footprint as a global city that is tied to services and travel around the world. But its economic base remains strongly tied to goods production in the nation and the nation’s mid-section.

Chicago’s Center Leads the Way?

As central cities go in the Midwest, the city of Chicago is often held up as exceptionally successful, having experienced something of an economic renaissance since 1990. Much like other Midwest central cities, Chicago suffered acutely from population and manufacturing decline accompanied by sharp suburbanization during the 1970s and 1980s. The city’s population declined 10.7 percent during the 1970s and another 7.4 percent during the 1980s, which amounted to a population loss of 583,000 over the two decades. But a population turnaround unfolded in the 1990s when Chicago enjoyed a population gain of 4.0 percent—the first such gain since the 1950s. The trend proved to be short-lived, however, as the recent decade 2000-10 took back 6.9 percent of Chicago’s population.

Despite such mixed success, Chicago does stand out somewhat among large metropolitan areas in the Midwest region, boasting several elements of marked improvement since 1990. For one, the city has attracted a population of educated, mostly young, working adults. Owing to in-migration, the city’s 25-34 year old population now has a higher four-year college attainment rate than the suburbs. Residential neighborhoods in the city (and the downtown itself) have especially shifted toward young and college educated households, who have invested heavily in housing and housing rehab. In the process, Chicago’s manufacturing orientation has transformed to service jobs in the business services, finance, education, and health care sectors.

One indication of Chicago’s strengthening core can be seen by comparing the central city’s unemployment rate with that of its surrounding suburban area. Typically, owing to the tendencies of the urban poor to reside in some central city neighborhoods, average central city unemployment tends to exceed suburban averages in large U.S. metropolitan areas. As seen below, this also holds true for the Chicago area.

However, the unemployment rate of the city of Chicago has been converging with that of the greater metropolitan area since 1990 (below). In the early 1990s, the city’s unemployment rate exceeded the metropolitan area’s by over 2 percentage points. By the end of last decade, the gap had narrowed below a single percentage point.

Unemployment rates are measured for survey respondents according to where they live, not where they work. Accordingly, given the gains in educational attainment among those who live in the city, it is not so surprising to also find improvements in unemployment rates.

But what about the city of Chicago as a place to work? Has Chicago’s central city been providing increased employment opportunities? Data on payroll employment and wage income are available by zip code area, though the coverage excludes government workers and several smaller industry categories.

The chart below indexes payroll employment in the entire city from 1994 to 2008 (red line).[1] While job counts have been flat within the city boundaries, income generated by available jobs indicates steep earnings gains, possibly reflecting a more highly skilled or at least more highly compensated job composition. Price-adjusted average payroll earnings per employed worker have climbed very steeply since 1994–by over 50 percent by 2008! (blue line).

On further inspection, as it turns out, gains in both payroll employment and in payroll earnings have been confined to Chicago’s central area while, on average, both jobs and payroll have declined over the same period in the outlying city area. The charts below contrast the central area with the outlying city neighborhoods; the map that follows provides employment detail by zip code area within the city of Chicago. Aside from strength at the core, job growth is evident on the Northwest side as one nears O’Hare Airport.

Payroll jobs by zip code

In examining the four large central cities of the Seventh District, the central areas of the other three—Detroit, Milwaukee, and Indianapolis–have also generally outperformed their outlying city neighborhoods as both job and income-generating domiciles. However, in the case of central city Detroit, outperformance has still meant a 9.5 percent job decline over the period. The Milwaukee and Indianapolis central areas have performed better in this regard, though they have underperformed Chicago.

Central areas of large Midwest metropolitan areas continue to hold promise in contributing to the redevelopment of their broader city and metropolitan area economies. Led by Chicago, the central areas have been generating significantly more earnings from a moderately growing payroll job base.

Note: Thanks to Wenfei Du and Norman Wang for assistance.

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[1] Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, County Business Patterns. (Return to text)

Groundhog Day for Chicago’s Economy?

Has the Chicago area lost its mojo? Given the poor economic conditions pervading so many regions of the United States, Chicagoans are not alone in asking whether their path of growth and development has gone off track. When the nation’s economy as a whole is down, it is especially difficult for individual regions to interpret economic signals concerning their long-term performance, but the tendency is to read them negatively. For Chicagoans, recent anecdotal evidence may also have shaded their views about the future of the wider Chicagoland area. For instance, Chicago lost its confident bid for the Olympic games this past fall in the first round; Oprah Winfrey announced the relocation of her iconic show to another locale—and, incidentally, from broadcast syndication to her own cable network; several large trade shows announced new venues or possible moves away from Chicago; and the planned mixed-use residential tower—The Spire—halted construction. Such events hardly settle the case; many positive developments mark Chicago’s past decade. In particular, Chicago’s two prominent financial exchanges—the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade—moved successfully into the era of electronic trading; and they then merged into the world’s largest (CME Group), expanding even further by recently acquiring the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX). The city’s Millennium Park opened to worldwide acclaim; Trump Tower was completed; and the famed Art Institute opened its Modern Wing—the largest expansion in the museum’s history. Additionally, Chicago’s design and architectural talent played an integral part in the completion of the world’s tallest building in Dubai.

Even with such accomplishments, Chicagoans have a more fundamental reason to pause when assessing their economic direction and performance. Following some very painful years of restructuring that took place during the 1970s and 1980s, the Chicago area economy and its central city experienced a surprising revival from the late 1980s through the 1990s. The revival led many local leaders to believe that the region had begun a new improved course of growth and development. The charts below first show the metropolitan area’s unemployment rates since 1980. Following the 1981–82 national recession, when the local unemployment rate had soared to above 11 percent , the unemployment rate began to fall steeply; it rose again during the 1990–91 recession, but it then continued to fall to just above 4 percent by the year 2000. By comparing the Chicago area’s unemployment rate with the nation, we can see that Chicago’s labor market tightness exceeded the nation’s during the mid to late 1990s, before rising above the nation’s once again over the recent decade to date. Was Chicago’s strong economic performance during the 1990s an aberration?

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Chicago’s turnaround following the 1980s was remarkable in that a fundamental restructuring supported it. Specifically, though the metropolitan area shed much of its manufacturing base, its work force shifted increasingly into professional and business services. In response, many Chicagoans crafted a new image of their metropolitan region: Instead of being a “hog butcher for the world” and the regional locus for manufacturing and transportation, Chicago (at least in the mind of its citizens) was moving into a new role as a global city, one whose economic connections were being forged with other world business capitals. Chicago was seen as a city casting off its roots for something better.

During this time, a central city revival contributed greatly to the wider metro economy. For example, Chicago became a magnet for young educated workers who occupied jobs in the rapidly growing business and professional services sectors. The central city’s quality of life and amenities reputedly brought in “knowledge workers,” in turn attracting companies or those parts of companies that desired access to the young, highly skilled labor pool. The number of central area jobs in professional and business and financial services grew robustly; and the city’s unemployment rate improved, gaining ground on that of its suburbs from the early 1990s onward. The central city gained population during the 1990s for the first time (counting the decade’s total) since the 1940s, although immigration of lower-skilled workers from Central America accounted for a majority of the gains.

Chicago’s performance in the current decade looks much less sanguine. As seen in the charts above, the metro area’s unemployment rate rose rapidly during both recessions of the 2000-09 decade, lingering above the national average for much of the first several years. Shortly after the 2001 recession, a gap of one-half percentage points or more opened up to Chicago’s disadvantage, and it did not dissipate until 2006. And over the past year or more, the Chicago unemployment rate has once again been running 0.5 percentage points or more above the nation’s.

Were some especially negative but transitory factors at play earlier in the 2000s’ decade that would suggest that the outlook for the coming years should be revised upward? Yes, to some degree. Chicago’s sizable manufacturing sector declined disproportionately compared with that of the nation in the early part of the recent decade. In part, the Chicago area’s manufacturing base was steeped in telecommunications equipment, which was especially hard hit nationally. Although the current national downturn in manufacturing is also very steep, Chicago’s manufacturing job base is weathering the recession modestly better than the nation’s.

The post-9/11 fallout in travel and tourism also left Chicago vulnerable earlier in the decade. And while the current economic environment has also been very challenging for the travel-related segments, these segments have fared better than earlier in the decade.

Chicago’s lagging post-recessionary recovery earlier in the decade can also be traced to its hefty professional and business services sectors. After 2001, Chicago’s payroll job growth in these sectors lagged the end of the U.S. recession by two full years. Many of these industries behave like investment or capital goods (e.g., real objects owned by individuals, organizations, or governments to be used in expanding production and sales of other goods or services). That is, during post-recessionary periods companies do not begin to expand their purchases of capital goods until their existing capacity begins to strain and the prospects for market expansion become buoyant. Looking forward, this means that these important business sectors for Chicago may once again experience a sustained period of growth. But the current economic signal is unclear as to whether the Chicago area economy is in a lull, or whether its long-term growth prospects have dampened.

Hindsight does give us some perspective as to the degree to which the Chicago metro area economy has truly divorced itself from its regional business roots to connect with a newly emerging structure in global markets. One chart below shows a ratio of broad economic activity—namely, per capita income—for the Chicago region to that of all other metropolitan areas over the past four decades; the other chart shows the ratio of per capita income of the Chicago area to that of the industrial Midwest states of Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana. First, in comparing Chicago’s per capita income to that of all other U.S. metropolitan regions, Chicago’s relative income is seen to fall modestly in the 1970s and then steeply over the first half of the 1980s. But then, from the mid-1980s throughout the 1990s, per capita income gained steadily on the U.S. average; by this metric, Chicagoans were correct about their economy’s performance: It had truly been on the rise over that period.

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However, it is more difficult to draw the conclusion that the Chicago area had successfully restructured its jobs base away from its surrounding region to become a global city. Whether Chicago had become more of an interconnected global financial and business center, such as New York or London, is still an open question. As seen above, for much of the 1990s, the Chicago region’s per capita income made little if any gains on the Great Lakes region. Rather, by way of explanation, the surrounding Midwest region was also experiencing a comeback of the same degree [1]. Domestic automakers were well on their way to profitability in producing energy-hungry passenger vans and sport utility vehicles. Meanwhile, rapid growth in the developing world supported Midwest production of capital goods machinery, such as farm and construction equipment. The Chicago regional economy continued to restructure toward high-skilled service provision, but its linkages may have remained somewhat parochial. That is, the Chicago area’s own growth appears to have been achieved through the provision of professional and transportation services to its traditional Midwest business partners.

In reappraising the era of the 1990s (especially in light of the Chicago region’s recent subpar economic performance), Chicago leaders and analysts may be motivated to look more carefully at possible directions for the future. Relative to some other Midwest and Northeast cities, the Chicago area has many assets, such as its prodigious base of professional services and a vibrant central city, which may provide ample opportunities for growth. Yet the future of Chicago’s economic direction and structure remain somewhat murky.

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[1]In the current decade, Chicago’s gain on the surrounding region largely reflects rapidly falling incomes and economic activity in Michigan. (Return to text)

Chicago: Tall and Striving

The autumn season brings full tilt to Chicago’s convention and tourism activity. Out on the sidewalks of downtown Chicago, office workers such as me find themselves dodging out-of-towners who are gazing upward at the tall buildings. This year, sidewalk hazards of this sort are especially abundant. The professional building gazers of the world, otherwise known as the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, are meeting here in Chicago to contemplate the purposes, construction, and financing of tall building projects throughout the world. They have asked me to address their conference in October on the role of tall buildings in Chicago’s economy.

Economists have long analyzed the purposes and benefits of high density living and working. And since high density cannot be achieved without tall buildings, many of the reasons to why we build so high can be found by considering density’s relationship to urban productivity.

Looking back over human history, transportation of goods and people has presented a costly impediment to beneficial manufacture, trade and travel. For this reason, the land area surrounding natural “nodes” of easy transportation such as water ports and harbors, and later railroad hubs, became very prized. That is to say, the transportation costs of accessing transportation nodes could be economized by intensively using surrounding land. And so, land rents rose there; and buildings for warehousing, factories, trade, and finance mounted as far skyward as the building technologies would allow.

Chicago’s economic history reflects these forces in some very special ways. As documented in two books about Chicago’s economy in the nineteenth century, Nature’s Metropolis and City of the Century, wealth creation in the small area surrounding the mouth of the Chicago River literally exploded. Here, a unique node of transportation was developed at the nexus of two vast waterway systems, the Great Lakes-Erie Canal to the east and the Mississippi River Basin to the west. Later in the century, some timely investments in railroad added another important transportation hub to Chicago.

On Chicago’s land, markets were made in grain, livestock, and lumber. Materials were further processed, warehoused, manufactured, and shipped to markets, both domestic and abroad. Marketing and financing were arranged. Specialized retailers evolved to serve western farmers and ranchers, as did machinery makers.

A special Chicago role in building technology was spurred by its rapid economic growth and the intensity of activity on the land surrounding its ports and railroads. In response to the urgency and high cost of downtown land, many innovations in constructing tall buildings emerged here. The innovation of first iron, and later steel, frames and skeletons supporting skyscrapers allowed developers to build higher and stronger, as did the technologies of “floating foundations” that allowed construction of skyscrapers on Chicago’s soft and shifting soils.

Today, the importance of materials movement and manufacturing to Chicago have eroded somewhat [1]. Still, the tall buildings and the attendant high density of work, play, and residence remain and, in fact, they have multiplied to serve other economic sectors. For the most part, the high density and proximity that tall buildings facilitate serve to allow people to communicate in highly efficient and often creative ways. While advances in electronic and digital communication such as the internet and cell phone are very helpful to business communication, they are incomplete. The modern economy has become more “information intensive,” not only in the communication of bulk, digitized information, but also in the face-to-face transmission of ambiguous information. In business meetings large and small, in organized forums and in random networking and social activities, information is created, debated, and transmitted. Workers hatch ideas, learn new concepts, cut business deals, and organize initiatives through such interactions. The “office meeting” has not died. And arguably, the chance encounters from which new ideas often arise have become more important than ever.

The “globalization” of trade and commerce which has taken place in recent decades has also raised the value of inter-personal communication. Globalization has increased the complexity of business transactions as well as increasing the variety of human cultures in which trust and understanding must be established in order for business to flourish.

Certain large and diverse cities, often called global cities, help to meet the requirements of global service exchange and deal making. Chicago definitely fits the bill. Its dense urban core and other features have vaulted Chicago to prominence as a global business center[2] . The metropolitan area now hosts 29 Fortune 500 headquarters offices, and ten Fortune global headquarters. Chicago’s presence in professional and business service is both sizable and closely aligned with business headquarters. Prominent companies in advertising, financial exchanges, research and development, human resources, management consulting, accounting, law and logistics serve businesses in Chicago and around the world. Chicago ranks among the top three U.S. metropolitan areas in the hosting and staging of business meetings and conventions. Top-flight universities add to the mix, including two of the world’s top five graduate business programs at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. There are over 1,500 foreign-owned firms in Chicago and 30 international chambers of commerce.

Economists usually refer to the added productivity that comes along with high density, large scale population, and a broad scope of (inter-connected) activities as “economies of agglomeration.” What this really means is that the whole of related activities amount to more than the sum of the parts; in Chicago, the co-location of the activities above add up to heightened economic productivity and wealth creation.

What are the interactions and transactions of co-location that give rise to heightened productivity? Some examples would be Chicago’s headquarters gathering superior and cost-effective services from local professional service firms; professional firms finding customers at the city’s many international trade shows; recruitment by local firms of graduates from Chicago’s outstanding universities; and ample continuing education opportunities for workers at all levels.

In addition, in contributing to agglomeration economies and a successful global city, businesses in the Chicago area also benefit from the city’s important and unique infrastructure, including an international airport. As more companies establish a global presence, they need more frequent face-to-face interactions with their counterparts and customers around the world. Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports offer nonstop or direct flights to 148 North American destinations and serve an additional 68 foreign destinations. This scale and reach of travel options are sustainable because of the extensive use of the facilities by (otherwise unrelated) local industries and, thanks to Chicago’s mid-country location, because of additional business from connecting traffic.

The judicious and well-planned configuration of tall buildings in Chicago’s downtown is a necessary condition for co-location of the aforementioned activities. And it is well worth noting that ground transportation and easy circulation are equally necessary to achieve a density that works well[3]. In most instances, the intent of vertical infrastructure is to economize on horizontal transportation costs. Overly congested roadways or poor public conveyance could easily undo these vertical advantages. While average travel times to work in the Chicago area are among the highest in the nation, six-hundred thousand workers do converge on Chicago’s central area each working day, of whom 55 percent of whom use mass transit [4] .

The conference attendees of the CTBUH will be considering such issues of tall buildings and urban habitat as they meet in Chicago. These issues may even provide welcome relief from a business environment which has, in many instances, left the financing of extant and prospective tall building developments in precarious condition.

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[1] Although Chicago’s manufacturing concentration registered one-third greater than the nation during much of the twentieth century, that sector is now about on par with the nation. However, owing chiefly to national railroad convergence in Chicago, the metro area remains the nation’s premier location for inter-modal surface freight transportation. (Return to text)

[2] It is Chicago’s core area that is most notable for its density of tall buildings. Over 50 percent of the metropolitan area’s office space can be found in the central area. Nonetheless, employment sub-centers with dense commercial configurations are an increasing phenomenon in large cities. In the Chicago metro area, Dan McMillen’s study finds that such sub-centers grew from 15 in 1990 to 32 by year 2000. (Return to text)

[3] While we tend to associate tall buildings with large and densely populated cities, it is interesting that we sometimes see tall buildings in rural areas where horizontal travel costs are low (and land rents are cheap). As analyzed by urban economist Arthur M. Sullivan, the logic of such buildings owes to their specialized functions in which people circulate frequently within such buildings to designated sites so that a single multi-story building becomes optimal. For this reason, we may see tall hotels, dormitories, and hospitals even in rural areas. (Return to text)

[4] The central area also houses extensive retail and educational activity. Per World Business Chicago, 65,000 students attend class there. (Return to text)

City-Suburban Population and the Housing Bust

Demographer William H. Frey calls to our attention a striking turnaround in population growth in the central cities of metropolitan areas. Since the 2005-06 peak of the housing construction boom in the United States, the growth rates of central cities have begun to gain ground on surrounding suburban areas. Beginning with 2005 and ending with population estimates reported by the Census Bureau for mid-year 2008, Frey illustrates a convergent city-suburb trend for U.S. metropolitan areas having a population over one million. These trends hold for all four major U.S. regions—North, Midwest, South, and West. (The 12-state Midwest population performance is shown below).

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Similarly, Frey reports that these gains “are not confined to the very largest American cities. Among the 75 cities with populations exceeding 200,000, 41 grew faster in 2007-08 than in the preceding year, and 54 grew faster than in 2004-05.” We show the population trends for such cities by region below. Once, again, we can see that the turnaround has taken place, on average, in all Census regions of the U.S.

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Within the Seventh District states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin, growth has also tended to rebound in cities over 200,000 in population (below). For the year ending in the middle of 2008, six of seven cities exhibited positive population growth. However, the City of Detroit is an outstanding exception with an accelerated decline in the mid-year ending 2008.

On average, Seventh District cities shifted from zero or negative growth in 2005 to an annual growth rate of 0.5 percent for 2008. The largest swings in performance were registered by Des Moines, with a swing from minus 1.3 percent in 2004 to plus 1.2 percent in 2008, and Chicago, with a swing from minus 0.7 in 2005 to plus 0.7 for 2008.

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At this point in time, the reasons for this shift toward central cities remain open to speculation. But given the timing, there are strong reasons to believe that the housing bust lies behind much, if not most, of the reversal. A general rise in demand for housing, such as that which occurred earlier in this decade, exerted a magnified impact on the fringe of urban areas. Given the lower price of land on the fringe and the ease with which larger single family homes can be constructed there (rather than tear-downs closer in), both population and housing generally shifted towards the periphery. Construction jobs related to fringe development likely bolstered the trend, as some households followed job opportunities to the suburbs. And now we may be seeing a reversal of such trends as home demand and employment have fallen off.

William Frey also attributes the urban population resurgence to the nature of the urban economies, citing “broad economic diversity at a time when smaller cities … are vulnerable to economic shocks” and the “resiliency of large urban centers that are economically and demographically diverse.” There may be some wisdom in thinking that this is so. In pursuing economic development, central cities have been trying to attract and grow “Eds and Meds,” (education and health care). As measured by George Erickcek and Tim Bartik of the Upjohn Institute, health care and hospitals, along with colleges and universities have been a bulwark of the economic base of many cities. These sectors of the U.S. economy have tended to grow and expand consistently, and cities have benefited. From the 2000 Census, Bartik and Erickcek report that earnings derived from the education sector are, on average, 36 percent more concentrated in the principal cities of the nation’s 283 metropolitan areas. Health care earnings are 12 percent more concentrated.

Nonetheless, with the release of the next mid-year Census estimates (for 2009), it will be interesting to see if central cities are able to sustain their momentum of population growth in relation to suburban areas. Beginning with 2009, the influences of the sharp U.S. recession and related job declines may become important. [1] Favoring central city economies, the education and health care sectors are steady performers even in recessions. So too, many central cities no longer host manufacturing production, which tends to be hit particularly hard during recessions. However, in many cities other elements of the economic base are both concentrated and highly sensitive to economic downturns. Such sectors include professional and business services, law, tourism/business travel, and especially the financial sector, which has been buffeted by the recent financial crisis.

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Little evidence is available so far concerning the differing impact of the two national recessions, 2001 and the current one, on city versus suburb. However, in a recent report by the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings, Elizabeth Kneebone and Emily Garr report on year-over-year unemployment rates for city versus suburbs in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas. They find that “in contrast to the last recession,” when city unemployment rates rose more sharply versus their suburbs, “unemployment has increased at nearly equal rates in cities and suburbs.” [2] The table below excerpts the year-over-year rise in unemployment rates for cities and their suburbs for several Seventh District cities and their suburbs and for the four major regions of the United States.

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Note: Thank you to Emily Engel and Matt Olson for assistance.

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[1]To some degree, people tend to locate their residences in proximity to their jobs, so that job locations would tend to drive population growth as well.(Return to text)

[2]The difference in the gap between the two recessions is not large. Year over year changes in unemployment rates in cities rose by 1.9 percent in primary cities versus 1.4 percent in suburbs from May 2001 to May 2002. For May 2008 to May 2009, year-over-year rates rose by 3.9 and 3.7 percentage points, respectively, for cities and suburbs. However, city/suburb unemployment rate differences in level are wider currently than in the 2001-02 period.(Return to text)

What are the opportunities in central cities?

Since at least the 1960s, central cities of large metropolitan areas have experienced challenging times. In many cases, large shares of the population and jobs have shifted from these central cities to their suburbs. More recently, over the past two decades, central cities’ travails have eased somewhat; the declines in the number of households and jobs have abated, and in some instances, these negative trends have reversed. Understanding the reasons behind these trends can be helpful in fashioning public policies to encourage the redevelopment of central cities.

The Chicago metropolitan area’s experience may be especially helpful in informing policy throughout the Midwest states. While the Chicago area has shared a common course of development with its neighbors in the Great Lakes region, its central city has outperformed its counterparts over the past 20 years. The population of the Chicago area’s central city has grown by an estimated 1.9%, or 53,000, since 1990. In comparison, the central cities of the eight remaining largest Great Lakes metropolitan areas have clocked a 9% loss[1]. As for employment located in the central cities, from 1990 through 2004, the Chicago area’s city lost 4.6%, while those of the other areas lost 6.5%.

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Why have central cities such as Chicago and the Twin Cities experienced some rebound? Two major reasons have been advanced. For one, it is clear that there has been a reawakening of interest in living in central cities that relates to their unique amenities and features. Gentrification in many cities has focused on those neighborhoods that contain interesting architecture and history—not to mention lively entertainment scenes. In addition, big city mayors have capitalized on renewed interest in city living by lavishing attention on amenities such as outdoor recreation, lively shopping and arts districts, scenic streetscapes and waterfronts, and urban festivals.

In a recent study of residential location in the City of Chicago versus suburban areas, Bill Sander and I document the specific characteristics of urban denizens versus suburbanites for both 1990 and 2000. The importance of city services to households is apparent from our findings concerning their demographic characteristics. For example, with an eye on the quality or reputation of city schools, household adults with children of school age are much more likely to choose the suburbs over the city. As for the general importance of amenities, diversity, and built environment, we find higher educational attainment to positively affect households’ decisions to choose central city residence. In 1990, those with a four-year college degree were no more likely to live in the city; by year 2000, such householders were 4% more likely to live in the city rather than the suburbs.

The education-related aspect of urbanization is evident in the changing composition of Chicago’s residents. In 1990, 19% of all working age adults living in the city had attained a college degree. By year 2000, this proportion had grown to 26%. Gains among the younger adults were most striking. As shown below, for adults aged 25–34, the college attainment share had grown to 39% by 2006. Growth since 1990 in college attainment of young adults living in the city reversed the suburban advantage of 1990. On average, by 2006, college attainment of young adults in the city exceeded that of their counterparts in suburban areas. The number of those with a bachelor’s degree residing in the city grew by over 50% over the 1990s (not shown) [2].

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It is a mistake to attribute too much of the rising urbanization of college-educated householders to the siren call of city lights, museums, and lakefront parks. That is because job location also strongly pulls along residential location (and vice versa). Through a job channel, the rising importance of information exchange in the U.S. economy may be the second vital large force that may be reviving central cities. New ideas, their dissemination, and the coordination of a complex worldwide economy have come to dominate economic output in developed nations; therefore, the siting of jobs and meetings of workers in dense configurations, some have argued, augments productivity and value generation. Central city location of work has become more desirable, which has pulled some jobs back toward the center of metropolitan regions.

There is some evidence of this renewed role of central cities. At the same time that many central cities have shed some types of routine production jobs, gains have been made in occupations and industries that are steeped in workers who engage in information exchange and interaction. While the City of Chicago has been shedding manufacturing jobs—one of its historic mainstays—it has largely replaced such jobs with those in nonmanufacturing sectors. As shown below, city job losses are largely accounted for by the manufacturing sector alone; in fact, the city has experienced overall growth in employment net of manufacturing. More specifically, (not shown) over the period from 1991-2002, central city Chicago realized strong job gains in such industry sectors as business services (+34.4 percent), securities and commodities brokers (+61.8 percent), educational services (+25.1 percent), and engineering and management services (+13.6 percent).[3]

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In our recent investigation of household preferences for city versus suburban residence in the Chicago metropolitan area, we account for the proximity of households to their place of work. Once we statistically account for those city residents who also have found employment in the city, our estimates of the importance of educational attainment on household location in the city are somewhat smaller than we originally estimated. More importantly, “place of work” statistically explains much of the central city residential location decision. For this reason, we should not put too much emphasis on the importance of household amenities to central city living, nor perhaps should policymakers; jobs and job-attracting features continue to be important.

At this point, not much is known about the extent to which the changing economic structure of central cities is actually generating new jobs in related fields and transforming economic bases. And so, leaders and analysts in other Great Lakes cities are looking at the Chicago experience for insights as Chicago pursues policies to refashion itself as a “global city,” in both its residential amenities and in its attractiveness to highly skilled service industries that trade in world markets. Research initiatives that can discern the importance of the city as a job location from a residential location will be especially helpful to city mayors and other policy makers.

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[1]Cities with elastic boundaries—namely, Columbus, Ohio, and Indianapolis, Indiana—are excluded. (Return to text)

[2]Not all of these gains reflect shifting preferences toward the city. Gains in overall educational attainment of the general population, especially young adults, enlarged the population of those adults that were, in turn, more likely to choose urban residence. (Return to text)

[3] See U.S. Dept. of HUD, SOCDS County Business Patterns Special Data Extracts, http://socds.huduser.org/. (Return to text)

Chicago Business Cycles–Now and Then

Downturns in economic conditions often come as a surprise. In fact, time lags between statistical releases and the conditions that they reflect can mean that economic slowdowns are not known until months after they have begun. Statistical information covering individual reasons tends to be worse in this regard.

Today there is, however, a widely held view that the U.S. economy has slowed sharply and that economic conditions will not immediately improve. Broad-based measures of national economic activity, such as the Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI), indicate that U.S. economic growth is well below its historical trend. As a result, observers in regions such as the Chicago metropolitan area are preparing for hard times. And they are asking whether they are likely to feel the worse for this apparent slowdown—and how long it will last.

In the Chicago area, memories are becoming dim of those days when the pace of the local economy fell sharply in response to national economic downturns. However, the chart below should remind us or inform us anew of the fact that Chicago’s economy often experienced sharp swings in employment. In the past (especially before 1990), Chicago’s employment base had been steeped in durable goods manufacturing industries, such as machinery and steel, which experienced layoffs and downsizings when the national economy turned downward. Twice during the 1950s, Chicago area payroll job declines approached 5 percent on a year-over-year basis as national job declines reached 3 and 4 percent on those two occasions. Chicago fared little better during the recessions of 1970–71, 1974–75 and 1981–82.

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Given this track record, it may seem pointless to ask how the region’s economy will fare in the months ahead. However, the question is well considered both because the economic structure of our economy is always changing and because no two economic downturns are alike with respect to their causes and impacts on industries.

Chicago’s economy is continuing to restructure in several important ways. Most dramatically, the region’s employment structure no longer concentrates directly in manufacturing. As recently as 1969, 30% percent of the Chicago metropolitan statistical area’s employment could be found in manufacturing in comparison with 24% for the overall U.S. By 2005, manufacturing’s share of employment had fallen to 9% percent and it had converged with the U.S.’s percent share. At least this element of sensitivity to national business swings seems to have partly abated.

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At the same time that manufacturing has waned, the Chicago area has also restructured into higher-order professional services, business meeting and travel, and financial services. (The chart below indexes the Chicago area payroll employment by major industry sector. An index value greater than 1, for example, indicates that Chicago’s employment base in that sector exceeds the national average.) Especially during the 1990s, the metropolitan area experienced very rapid growth in these industry sectors. This expansion was thought to have been accompanied by geographic changes. In particular, while Chicago’s services industries had historically grown and developed through its local trade linkages with Midwest goods producers, business and financial services were now thought to have strengthened and lengthened their ties with international and U.S. cities and regions. If this were actually the case, the traditional patterns in which Midwest manufacturing production declines are strongly transmitted through Chicago’s services industries would have weakened.

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To the contrary, the subsequent experiences of the recessionary period of 2001 and its aftermath tend to suggest that Chicago’s restructuring into business and financial services has not buffered it from national business downturns. As measured by total payroll jobs, the Chicago area’s decline of 3 percent in 2001 was at twice the pace of the national average (see chart below). And if the professional and technical services sector has become Chicago’s new bellwether, its performance during the past downturn is not encouraging. From a year-over-year growth peak of 7 percent in 1999, Chicago jobs in the professional and technical sector fell by over 8 percent during 2002. Though we may not think of these services as being sensitive to the general level of business activity, their responsiveness to business swings is much like producers of investment goods and capital equipment. That is, firms tend to expand their purchases of professional services such as advertising, marketing, business meeting travel/convention, and management consulting when they are expanding their markets and investing, but they tend to retrench their purchases of such services when they are retreating.

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More generally, although Chicago has broadened and diversified its economy, many of its hallmark sectors remain sensitive to swings in the overall economy. According to the chart above, Chicago remains concentrated in manufacturing. So, too, Chicago remains a goods transport and distribution hub for manufactured goods that are both domestically produced and internationally traded. While many of the area’s services such as education and health are somewhat impervious to general slowdowns, many of its business services are volatile, depending on the fortunes of Midwest goods-producing sectors and, increasingly, on the prosperity of national and international customers.

Chicago also maintains high job concentration in financial and insurance sectors. Unlike the job bases of the New York and Los Angeles metropolitan areas, Chicago’s job base is not greatly exposed to the most adversely affected subsectors of financial services—namely, investment banking, securities dealers, and mortgage finance companies. That said, the remaining financial services subsectors are not expected to be sources of net job growth in the months ahead.

Note: Thanks to Emily Engel for assistance.

Energy Prices and Where We Live and Work

For those of us who are aged 50 and older, it is easy to forget that younger generations did not experience the energy crunch of the 1970s nor the many (often failed) public policy responses to the OPEC oil price run-ups. With today’s similar developments in energy markets, it is fascinating to compare the two eras. In some ways, history repeats itself. In other ways, it does not.

The auto industry upheaval appears to be repeating the 1970s. As then, domestic automakers (and their fuel-consuming fleets) are suffering dearly from the sudden hike in gasoline prices; foreign-domiciled automakers, not so much. In both the 1970s and today, the vehicles of Asian automakers tend to be smaller and more fuel-efficient. Unlike the 1970s, however, today even Toyota is paying for its lurch toward large vehicles such as its large pickup truck, the Tundra.

Another apparent similarity between the eras is that some analysts are predicting that rising fuel costs will reshape our patterns of living and working toward more compact urban forms, to the detriment of far suburban and rural areas. However, the actual shifts that took place in the landscape of America surprised us somewhat during the 1970s and early 1980s.

The U.S. was already well-suburbanized by the mid-1970s. But in response to higher fuel prices, it was commonly thought that beleaguered central cities were in store for some respite from the population flight that they had been experiencing. With their denser housing patterns, high job concentrations, and well-developed public transit systems, large cities would offer shelter from high gasoline prices. In suburban and rural areas, where driving distances were long, residents would pay the price. The pace of suburban sprawl would slow, the pace of rural shrinkage would accelerate. For those of you too young to remember, these predictions did not come to pass.

These same predictions are being made today as gasoline prices have doubled. In a recent study, Joseph Cortright offers evidence that shifts toward more compact cities are already underway, as households eschew housing on the urban fringe where commuting distances are long. Indeed, in large metropolitan areas like Chicago, housing prices in closer-in neighborhoods have been holding up relatively well over the past year. The era of urban sprawl has been pronounced dead, with households and employers expected to favor greater density as a way to economize on energy-related travel costs.

However, the contrast between expectations in the 1970s and what actually came to pass may give us pause in assessing today’s predictions. Just the opposite took place in the 1970s era. Central cities of large metropolitan areas, especially in the Northeast and Midwest, experienced their worst decade of the century. Population tended to flee to the suburbs, especially middle and upper middle income residents. The apparent reasons for flight included rising crime, school desegregation, and the near-completion of an interstate highway system that funneled homeowners to cheap and abundant housing on the perimeter.

While rural areas in some areas of the U.S. did continue to decline, on the whole the 1970s was hailed as the decade of the “urban to rural turnaround.” The charts below indicate population growth over past decades for metropolitan versus nonmetropolitan counties. Though energy expenditures were higher on average for rural households, rising energy prices for coal, natural gas, and petroleum raw materials spurred a boom in exploration and mining in many parts of the U.S. Rural rebound was also spurred by a resurgence in prices and exports of agricultural commodities and processed foods. The falling exchange value of the dollar against world currencies following the dollar’s detachment from gold in 1971 was accompanied by favorable prices for U.S. foodstuffs on global markets. Faltering agricultural production in some foreign nations such as the former Soviet Union contributed to rising U.S. farm income. So too, thanks in part to the interstate highway system, some types of manufacturing began to discover rural areas as hospitable sites for production.

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Will these surprising patterns repeat themselves in the current era of high prices for energy materials? Rural areas are once again finding themselves amidst an energy and food commodity boomlet. Surging agricultural demand from developing nations has contributed to rising U.S. exports and commodity prices. The falling value of the U.S. dollar since 2002 has also contributed, as have the U.S. legal mandates and subsidies for the use of corn-based ethanol as a transportation fuel. In the Seventh District, the growth pattern in farmland prices looks much like the late 1970s and early 1980s, rising at double digits annually through the decade.

In other regions, coal mining and energy exploration activity are buoyant.

However, this time around, conditions would seem to favor central cities versus rural and far suburban areas more than in the 1970s. Rates of crime declined over the 1990s in most major U.S. central cities. Central city schools continue to struggle to educate and graduate low-income students, in particular. Yet, most such school systems enjoy greater financial stability, and many have innovated and expanded their offerings to serve populations who are diverse culturally, as well as economically. Rather than shunning large cities, many highly educated households are finding the older architecture, diverse community, and rich array of amenities in central cities attractive. To some degree, employers have followed educated employees back into central cities; or they have found that the density of the central city makes for more productive business activity in the “new economy,” which rewards face-to-face contacts in conjunction with sophisticated telecommunications. Should these recent trends continue, higher gasoline prices may only add one more advantage to the higher density of older central cities.

These trends may leave some suburbs on the fringe as the losers in the current era. The map below illustrates the average commuting time for suburban areas of the Chicago metropolitan area. Many households who buy or rent in suburban areas choose the low housing prices that such areas offer at the expense of longer trips to work. The sudden rise in gasoline prices may have left many such households with larger shocks to household budgets than their more urban counterparts. The Center for Neighborhood Technology in Chicago has constructed neighborhood maps of U.S. metropolitan areas which estimate average household expenditures for commuter travel. For Chicago and most other metropolitan areas, these estimates show that average household energy expenditures climb on the fringes of metropolitan areas. Even as measured as a share of household income, far-suburban households are more severely affected by rising fuel costs.

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Some revisionist interpretations of the 1970s experiences of “urban to rural” turnaround have also been made by analysts such as Paul Gottlieb. And it seems that the turnaround of that period has been overstated by an inherent bias of measurement—the tendency to overstate the population growth of nonmetropolitan counties during periods in which household growth is robust nationally. In such periods, population growth in nonmetropolitan counties can flip their defined status from nonmetro to metro, thereby inflating the measured pace of growth in consistently defined “nonmetro” counties.

Given the experience of the 1970s, it is difficult to draw firm and rapid conclusions concerning whether an era of higher fuel costs will reshape our urban, suburban, and rural landscape and, if so, how. To be sure, higher fuel costs have changed the desirability of work and residential locations. But we also know that households and businesses can adapt to such marked price shocks in other ways than moving. In particular, as today’s fleets of autos and trucks wear out, they will surely be replaced by more fuel-efficient vehicles, thereby allowing many long commutes and delivery trips to resume at moderated cost. Such was the case following the energy price shocks of the 1970s.

Note: Thanks to Vanessa Haleco-Meyer, Bill Sander, and Graham McKee for comments and assistance.

Congestion tolling and privately operated roads—An idea whose time has come?

As our roads become increasingly congested, tolling and privatization of highways will be increasingly important lifelines, especially for large urban economies. The idea that motorists should pay tolls when driving on congested highways has long been advocated by economists. Conceptually, the “public” part of highway transportation is limited to the necessary intervention by public authorities to strategically acquire land for transportation and assure that all have access to travel freely in pursuit of commerce and recreation. However, the individual’s use of a roadway is often “private” in that it imposes congestion costs on other drivers (and some pollution as well). That is, in the motorist’s decision to use a road, the individual driver does not consider the congestion costs imposed on other drivers, thereby leading to the overuse of limited public roadway capacity. As a remedy, congestion tolls bring these individual driving decisions back into line with the greater public good. As the degree of road use (and congestion) varies by time of day and by day of the week, so should the amount of tolls vary accordingly.

After a long hiatus, interest in congestion tolling and privately operated roads has been climbing. European and Asian cities have made innovative headway in congestion fees. Both Stockholm and the City of London have implemented motor vehicle charges for the privilege of access to their central area; so has Singapore. Most recently, New York City has proposed to charge auto motorists $8 for the privilege of driving around Manhattan during peak traffic hours, with higher fees for those driving trucks.

Such actions are largely being spurred by rising congestion—which did not materialize overnight. The Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) creates a “travel time index” that indicates the relative change in travel time from peak traffic to free-flow traffic. In a TTI report, Chicago in 1982 had a travel time index of about 1.2, meaning that given a 40-minute commute during a free-flow period, a person driving during peak hours would drive about 48 minutes (20% longer than it “should” take). This had climbed to 57 percent longer by 2003. In four major cities of the Seventh District, the added time to a commute during peak hours has increased from 14% in 1982 to 46% in 2003.

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Prior to the recent spate of toll programs, some highway authorities experimented with non-price-rationing measures such as “high occupancy vehicle” (HOV) lanes. To curtail congestion, HOV lanes set aside and dedicated freeway lanes to those vehicles, including cars and buses that have multiple occupants. Unfortunately, the results were sometimes disappointing in relieving congestion because HOV lanes merely attracted vehicles that already contained multiple occupants, without prompting a significant number of single-passenger motorists to carpool. So, too, the dedicated HOV lanes, while often uncongested, tended to push even greater congestion onto unrestricted lanes of the highway.

In response, the so-called “high occupancy toll” or HOT lanes have sometimes been called into action. HOT lanes are essentially HOV lanes that allow single-occupancy vehicles to motor in them—but for a price.

What has brought us to this state of affairs? Under the best of circumstances, motorists prefer to drive when and where they choose at no charge. But Americans’ penchant for driving has far outrun our financial ability to build roads. Lifestyle changes have tremendously raised the miles traveled in cars by U.S. households. Rising household incomes have lifted the desires for ever larger houses and lots, which are, in turn, often satisfied by homes located quite far from work sites. In addition, owing to the desire for residential privacy, homes are often built on dead-end or nonthrough streets, which has aggravated traffic on the major arterial roads surrounding residential communities.

Also, the rising trend of two-earner households makes it difficult for both earners to simultaneously live near their workplaces. More generally, there are extensive logistics (and driving miles) for today’s American family to coordinate their many trips for work, shopping, education, and recreation. By one estimate (DOT), highway travel miles climbed 23.4% from 1995 to 2005 in comparison to a population increase of 11.4%. To accommodate such rising traffic, road expansion has climbed by only 2.6% over the same period.

Many observers recognize that improved community land use planning could help curtail our appetite for driving. For example, allowing developers to build high-density apartment-type residences around existing commuter rail stations would allow at least one of a household’s commuters to keep a car parked during the workday commute. So, too, stronger community planning efforts to assure that households of modest means can find affordable housing could help curtail the need for very long commutes. In the Chicago area, for example, policy think tanks such as Chicago Metropolis 2020 and the Metropolitan Planning Council spearhead efforts and programs that promote such community planning. Still, however sensible such planning may be, there has been very little of it implemented in many U.S. cities to date, and so, the increased commuting has often overtaken existing roadway capacity.

In past decades, state governments have often tried to keep pace with rising demands for driving and for far-flung housing by building more roads, including freeways. Several forces are now conspiring to slow such construction, especially tight fiscal conditions. The primary source of highway grant assistance to states, the Federal Highway Trust Fund, is replenished from the federal tax on gasoline. But the tax of 18.4 cents per gallon has not been raised since 1993 so that while revenues do rise somewhat along with vehicle miles traveled, they do not keep pace with rising gasoline prices and higher milage automobiles. Meanwhile, the revenue resources of state governments have also been besieged. Many state gasoline taxes are themselves imposed on a stagnant “cents per gallon” basis, and the voting public strongly resists the raising of gasoline taxes—especially as motor fuel prices have put increased pressure on household budgets over the past three years.

This leaves state government officials in a quandary, since the costs for competing public services, especially health care, education, and prisons, are concurrently squeezing state budgetary funds. State and local governments are hard pressed to even maintain existing highways, let alone fund expansions to curtail growing traffic congestion.

In addition to charging tolls, elected officials are also responding by increasingly turning to the private sector to assume responsibilities that include the financing, planning, marketing, construction, operation, and pricing of roads and bridges. Many combinations and arrangements of these functions are being attempted, from simple outsourcing of management and toll collection of highways to the all encompassing long-term leasing of highways as a publicly regulated private business entity.

Increased congestion and financial stress are not the only reasons behind the privatization and tolling of transportation infrastructure. New and improved technologies for payment of highway tolls have recently come to the fore. In contrast to the driver of yesteryear who had no option but to deal with the delay-plagued coin and cash toll booths, today’s driver can often make payment with little or no slowing down. Toll payments can be made online by transponders carried within vehicles or offline by remiote reading of license plates.

Seventh District initiatives lie at the recent epicenter of these movements in the U.S. In particular, the City of Chicago entered into a 99-year lease to a private consortium in 2005, turning over operational responsibility for and revenue returns from an 8-mile stretch of toll highway called the Chicago Skyway. By many accounts, the City benefited greatly from this transaction, while the public interest of drivers was also well served by enhanced operational efficiencies. The City of Chicago used income from the deal to retire existing debt on the Skyway infrastructure, and with the remaining revenue, it also set up a trust fund and purchased a sizable annuity that will help finance the city’s general operating funds well into the future. The driving public now enjoys rapid roadway maintenance and toll collection and eased congestion, albeit with prospective increases in toll fees.

Following Chicago’s lead, the Indiana Finance Authority leased its east–west toll turnpike for $3.8 billion in 2006. In large part, Indiana will use the proceeds to fund and maintain highway infrastructure throughout the state.

Meanwhile, in an effort to reduce rush-hour congestion around the Chicago area, the Illinois Tollway Authority introduced differential time-of-day pricing for only trucks in 2005. This program also doubled tolls for drivers in autos who choose to pay by cash at toll booths rather than by electronic transponder as they drive through rapidly. Revenues from these schemes are being used for repairs and expansion of the tollway system; they are also being used for the capital costs of new and reconfigured “open road” (or no-stop) toll collection system, which enables vehicles to pay tolls while traveling at highway speeds.

As the Illinois Toll Authority and other examples show, privatization and tolling of roads are separable actions. But in some ways they reinforce one another. Turning one’s operations over to private companies may provide one way to overcome the public’s resistance to congestion pricing, especially in contrast to government authorities who may be encumbered or distracted by non-transportation responsibilities or political constraints (i.e., the lack of political will to appropriately price use of the asset). Privatization potentially may also allow the operational authority to change pricing regimes and payment technologies more quickly in response to changing roadway conditions. Also, cost efficiencies and service quality are presumably improved when private agencies are watching the bottom line, though this has not always proved to be the case.

Still, the issues inherent in privatization schemes are contentious with respect to both purported operational efficiencies and sound fiscal management by governments. In awarding operational and pricing autonomy to private companies, it is not always clear whether the public interest is less than optimally served in favor of the profitability of the private operator. In particular, monopoly-type pricing by a private operator may be worse than publicly directed underpricing of congested facilities. Similarly, the data collected from the publicly rather than privately operated system may be more readily available for systemic public land use and transportation planning across entire metropolitan areas. For these reasons, as they enter into such partnership arrangements, elected officials must carefully craft contract terms and then follow up by monitoring the private companies during the terms of the contract.

Other concerns center on the behavior and actions of governments when they first enter into such agreements. Upfront revenue windfalls from the leasing of public infrastructure may cloud the judgment of governments and elected officials. Without proper disclosure and oversight of government by the public, the sale and leasing of transportation infrastructure to private buyers may pander to the near-sighted proclivities of elected officials. To plug current budget holes, or to plump up current spending for self-motivated reasons, public officials may unwisely commit large revenue streams immediately received from the sale or lease, while concurrently widening future budget deficits by eliminating public revenue streams. As always, the voting public and their representative think tanks must be on guard to oversee the terms of public–private partnership arrangements.

Elected officials must also represent and protect the public’s interests in matters of fairness and equity. Lower-income households are those who will be disproportionately burdened to pay for the use of less-congested roadways. In many ex-urban and suburban places, lower-income households must travel long distances to access their workplaces. Equity concerns are often compelling, since these workplace commutes are often lengthened by land use restrictions undertaken in high-income communities that limit the availability of affordable housing near work sites.

In response to equity concerns, some states and localities are adding capacity and subsidies to public transportation—both light rail and buses. When funding is short, as it usually is, governments often earmark part of highway toll revenues to such dedicated purposes.

However, for many households, public transportation is not an option. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, only 4.7 percent of workers currently use public transportation. The table below shows average usage of public transportation for Seventh District states. Public transportation is, of course, more viable in densely populated places, including large cities such as Chicago. Since large cities also coincide with highway congestion and tolling practices, the use of tolls to fund public transportation subsidies will work better there.

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The use of congestion pricing, privatization, and new payments technologies remain in their infancy. Yet, because of the ever-increasing demand for driving, accompanied by little highway expansion and poor land use planning, heavy congestion will soon be a reality in many communities. For this reason, the Federal Reserve Bank will hold a one-day workshop this June to understand how pricing schemes, public–private partnerships, and emerging payment mechanisms can be used to address congestion and efficiency in commuter networks.

Financial Services Employment Growth in Chicago

Financial and insurance activities have historically concentrated in cities. In large part, this location tendency follows from the deep and broad information that is needed in allocating capital to those endeavors of highest return. Owing to their intense human interaction, large cities are advantaged in gathering and processing information about potential investments, and in matching specialized financial market participants on both sides of financial transactions.

Although it might seem otherwise, the heightened ease of global trade and communication in recent years has done nothing to break loose the urban advantage in financial services. To be sure, technological advances in information technology have lowered the costs of transmitting information over long distances, thereby allowing some financial functions to disperse to less urban areas. For example, routinized activities such as the processing of insurance claims and billing invoices can now be more cheaply carried out in small U.S. cities or even overseas. However, to the contrary, the complexity of financial transactions has grown considerably, putting a high premium on the advantages of urban location as the domicile for many higher order financial transactions and for highly skilled financial workers and entrepreneurs.

As the fourth largest metropolitan area in the world, measured by total annual output, the Chicago area harbors some hopes for a strong and growing financial services sector. Chicago has long served as a significant regional financial capital for the Midwest, especially in banking and insurance. So too, its risk management exchanges and member firms have evolved these particular specialties into industries of global reach and employment. Accordingly, while Chicago’s economic roles in manufacturing and other activities have waned, Chicago’s stature in financial services remains highly important in supporting the region’s economy. For 2005, financial and insurance payroll jobs amounted to 246,000 in the metropolitan area, comprising 5.8 percent of the total job base.

The current industry classification system (NAICS) breaks down financial services into three parts: Credit intermediation (NAICS 522), Securities and Commodities Contract Brokerages & Other Financial Services (NAICS 523), and Insurance Carriers and Other Activities (NAICS 524). “Credit intermediation” includes commercial banking along with credit card issuing, consumer lending, sales financing and mortgage lending. NAICS 523 includes not only stocks, bonds, commodities brokerage and exchanges, but also investment banking, portfolio management, and investment advice.

Using payroll employment by industry as a measure, the graph below displays the relative concentration of large U.S. cities in these industries versus the overall U.S. economy. An index value of one indicates parity with the U.S. in the industry’s job concentration; a value exceeding one indicates that the city’s employment concentration exceeds the U.S. For example, a value of two indicates that a particular industry concentrates twice as much employment in the city as compared to the U.S.

Generally, Chicago and other large metropolitan areas are seen to concentrate more highly than the U.S. across major financial industries. The Chicago area’s payroll employment index registers a value of 1.33 for 2006, indicating a concentration over the entire 522-524 sectors that is 33 percent more concentrated than the U.S. (This concentration was approximately the same as back as 1990).

The Chicago area’s sharpest employment concentration lies in the NAICS 523 sector, securities and commodities brokerage etc. with an index value of 1.96. In large part, this derives from the city’s world-prominent risk exchanges and their member firms. In addition, however, concentrated sub-sectors also include investment banking, portfolio management, and investment advice.

In addition to these activities, Chicago’s economy also concentrates employment in insurance related sectors (NAICS 524, an index value of 1.15) and credit intermediation (NAICS 522, an index value of 1.30).

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Despite some ups and downs, Chicago’s financial sector employment has contributed to the city’s growth. As elsewhere in the U.S., the wave of banking deregulation led to profound consolidation during the 1990s. During the era, the Chicago area experienced employment declines in NAICS 522 concurrent with waves of bank acquisitions, mergers, and attendant consolidation. Since then, Chicago area employment in credit intermediation businesses has grown. For one reason, in a recent study, Tara Rice and Erin Davis document the proliferation of commercial bank branches in the Chicago region. Previously, severe legislative restrictions on the branching of banks in Illinois resulted in an underserved population.

Similar performance experiences befell Chicago’s risk exchange community during the late 1990s and early years of this decade. Prior to their recent structural re-organization and successful adaptation to electronic trading, Chicago’s risk exchanges stagnated as emerging exchanges around the world gathered market share from them. Since then, Chicago’s risk exchange and risk management community is once again expanding, including firm spinoffs into emerging business lines and technologies. One recent study entitled “Exploring Entrepreneurship: The Chicago Futures Trading Industry” documents the spawning of local economic ventures centered around “technologies developed to enhance the buy-side of trading as well as post-trading management and technologies that cope with the increasing volume of market data that is being generated through electronic trading.”

Through such upheavals, the graph below shows that finance-insurance employment growth has kept pace with overall job growth in the Chicago metropolitan area over the longer term. Employment in the insurance arena has declined 10 percent since 1990. However, these losses were made up for by growth in both remaining financial sectors. In particular, job growth in the securities and commodities sectors expanded by 30 percent since 1990, an increase of about 10,000 jobs.

In more recent times–since year 2000, all three finance and insurance sectors are helping to pull along the Chicago area’s labor market. On an annualized basis, in 2006 Chicago’s total payroll job levels across all sectors, financial and otherwise, remained 2-3 percent below the peak year 2000. Yet, financial and insurance sector payroll employment jobs has risen 5 percent over the period.

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How important is this financial service performance to the Chicago regional economy? In some measure, Chicago’s financial industries serve the surrounding Midwest region and its industries which would suggest some drag on Chicago’s financial sector activity. Yet, despite slow growth of the broader Midwest, Chicago’s financial and insurance sectors continue to expand payroll. Such growth bears watching. Averaged across all sectors, payroll jobs in the NAICS 522-524 sectors carry an average annual payroll that is 75 percent above the region’s average annual payroll per job, clocking in at more than $81,000 per payroll job in 2005.