Chicago business picks up in December

Chicago is the third most populous city in the United States and a Midwestern hub, so business performance in the city is an important regional barometer for the national economy. As such, local employers should be encouraged to see an index for Chicago business conditions improve for the third straight month in December. With the index suggesting business in the city is expanding, Chicago recruiters can aid Second City employers as they locate and hire the top talent to continue the strong growth.

New orders fuels increase
The December reading of the Chicago Business Barometer showed gains for the third consecutive month to end the year on a high note, the Institute for Supply Management said. The index rose to 51.6 in December, up from 50.4 in November. A score above 50 indicates expansion, while a total of less than 50 suggests contraction, which October and September most recently hinted at. The index uses a survey from area purchasing managers to reach an accurate reading.

The December gains were driven in large part from the biggest advance for new orders in 19 months. New orders increased to 54.0 for December after November's composite measured 45.3. Production also remained strong, although it was down from November's 54.7 mark. December registered a 53.8, still well in expansion range.

Fiscal cliff puts halt to other conditions
However, despite the encouraging growth in procurement and the overall improvement of business conditions in Chicago, employment did fall for the month, receding to 45.9 in December. While it's a shock to see decreasing employment in a more positive business environment, the truth on employment may not lie with business itself, but extenuating circumstances; particularly the tenuous fiscal cliff situation.

In a portion of the index release where survey respondents can comment on the month, one said the business had instituted a "hiring freeze in Q4, [because they were] waiting to assess the outcome of the fiscal cliff deliberations." Others expressed tempered enthusiasm for December and looked to 2013 with a renewed optimism.

Supply chain recruiters can still provide a valuable service to businesses that are encouraged to make incremental hiring boosts. These firms can take advantage of the strengthening business environment by providing an intensely selective service to identify the best of the talent pool.