To prosper economically and sustain a high quality of life, metropolitan Chicago needs a well-educated and diverse workforce with the knowledge and ingenuity to drive future growth. Barriers that impede residents from fully participating in the regional economy undercut one of the region’s primary assets -- its human capital. The region is in constant competition with other metropolitan areas to attract both businesses and skilled workers. ON TO 2050 calls on the region to take deliberate steps to bridge the gaps between adults seeking to build a career and employers looking to build their workforce.

However, there are significant challenges to achieving this goal. Numerous measures of economic well-being by race and ethnicity show how the region falls short of ensuring equitable opportunity for all residents, and thus falls short of performing to its full potential. Black and Hispanic residents in particular experience persistent disparities in educational attainment, employment, household income, and other indicators. Over time, these challenges limit the pace and durability of the region’s economic growth, while also impeding efforts to reduce poverty or create opportunity.

Our complex education and workforce development systems must become more strategic and demand-driven in the face of uncertain future labor market shifts. Coordination and communication among institutional partners and between these institutions and employers is limited. As the rate of economic and technological change grows, individuals increasingly need to learn new skills and be retrained multiple times, making responsive and coordinated systems for education and training increasingly important.

Click below to see an interactive graphic comparing racial and ethnic disparities in economic outcomes across U.S. regions.

Screenshot of the disparate outcomes interactive graphic

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Workforce Updates


August 01, 2019

Chicago region attracting—but not retaining—working age adults

A well-educated and talented resident pool provides the workforce needed to keep the economy thriving. As highlighted in a prior analysis, when the economy is healthy, residents are more likely to ...

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April 26, 2016

Commute trends of CMAP region freight and manufacturing workers

Metropolitan Chicago's workforce is one of the most important factors in a strong regional economy.  An integral element -- regional workforce mobility, measured in this Policy Update by comm...

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May 21, 2015

Population change and geographic mobility in the CMAP region

A Policy Update assesses trends in U.S. Census data on migration and population change in our region and discusses their implications.

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March 04, 2015

Searching for Evidence of a Skills Gap in Manufacturing

New Policy Update looks at quantitative labor market data to determine the extent of the manufacturing skills gap in metropolitan Chicago.

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February 09, 2015

White House Releases FY16 Budget Proposal

A Policy Update describes housing and workforce and economic development provisions in the Obama Administration's $4 trillion budget proposal for FY16 .

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December 18, 2014

STEM Employment Trends in the Chicago Region

Innovation is a key factor in maintaining a globally competitive region, and policymakers and industry leaders look increasingly to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields to help ...

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December 04, 2014

December 4, 2014

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August 14, 2014

Alternative Unemployment Measures Help Contextualize the Economic Downturn

CMAP's regional economic indicators microsite features key measures of metropolitan Chicago's economy and, where applicable, compares these measures to peer metropolitan areas.  The mi...

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July 28, 2014

Indicators Shed Light on Chicago Region’s Innovation Economy

On July 28, CMAP released data and analysis on innovation indicators -- venture capital activity, private-sector R&D employment, technology transfer, and patent production.

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July 22, 2014

Improved GO TO 2040 Case Study Library

Completed Local Technical Assistance projects and GO TO 2040-related work are highlighted in a new interactive map.

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July 21, 2014

Clusters Indicators Highlight Importance of Freight, Manufacturing in Region

On July 21, CMAP released data and analysis on clusters indicators – intermodal lifts, manufacturing and freight cluster employment and industry location quotients, and manufacturing exports.

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July 14, 2014

Workforce Indicators Show Growing STEM Employment, Manufacturing Skills Gap in Region

On July 14, 2014, CMAP released new data and analysis on workforce indicators – educational attainment, workforce participation, the skills gap, and STEM occupations.

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July 07, 2014

New microsite tracks regional economic trends

CMAP's microsite will focus on four major economic themes: trends, industry clusters, workforce, and innovation.

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June 26, 2014

Evaluating Housing and Transportation Costs in the CMAP Region

Very few parts of the region are affordable in terms of housing and transportation costs for low-income households.

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June 13, 2014

Draft GO TO 2040 plan update available for public comment through August 1, 2014

Submit comments on-line and attend open house meetings throughout the region for the draft GO TO 2040 plan update and FFY 2014-19 Transportation Improvement Program.

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May 20, 2014

OECD Examines Factors Contributing to Regional Productivity

New analysis investigates the effect that local governance, human capital, and freight activity can have on the overall productivity of metropolitan regions.

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May 15, 2014

Supporting the Freight-Manufacturing Nexus in the O’Hare Subregion

CMAP's new report assesses how local conditions support the competitiveness of the subregion's freight and manufacturing cluster and describes opportunities to ensure its continued success.

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March 18, 2014

White House Releases FY 2015 Budget Proposal

A CMAP Policy Update looks at regional and national implications of the Obama Administration's proposed 3.9 trillion budget for federal fiscal year 2015.

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January 31, 2014

Springfield Update on State of the State Address and CMAP 2014 Legislative Agenda and Framework

Legislators convened in Springfield for the second spring session of the 98 th Illinois General Assembly on January 28, 2014.  This Springfield Update discusses the Governor's State of the S...

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November 14, 2013

New Report Provides More Complete Picture of Trade Activity

Exports are an important indicator of economic health and trends. Until recently, however, related data focused exclusively on international exports, rather than between metropolitan regions. The ...

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