Key Industries

Chicago's economy thrives on a combination of mature (manufacturing and transportation/distribution) and emerging (info-tech, R&D, and green energy) industries. 

Some of the Chicago region's largest employers include Advocate Health Care, Walgreens, AT&T, United Continental Holdings Inc., Abbott Laboratories, J.P. Morgan Chase, Allstate Corp., and Jewel-Osco.

The region ranks in the Top 5 in output among U.S. metro areas in a number of key industries including: Business & Financial Services, Manufacturing, Health Services, and Transportation & Distribution.

Business & Financial Services

Chicago offers one of the largest, most diverse pools of business and financial service expertise, with over 1 million employees in those industries. Specializations include:

  • Accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping & payroll services
  • Advertising services
  • Recruiting services
  • Legal services
  • Management services
  • R&D
  • Specialized design


Chicago has consistently been a leader in manufacturing, with over 405,000 employed across various manufacturing specialties. The Chicago region's manufacturing base continues to change with the economy, recently adding jobs in green building material and hi-tech products.


Chicago and its greater metropolitan area provide life science and biotech entrepreneurs with a tremendous balance of capital, community and global fluency. Area companies are at the forefront of developments in diagnostics, therapeutics, medical equipment, and food and environmental biotechnologies, as well as enabling technologies such as bioinformatics, genomics and proteomics.


Chicago’s vast tech ecosystem is maturing, as a number of components converge. Established and emerging companies, alongside the city’s prominent universities and entrepreneurship facilities, its vibrant tech culture and initiatives, and its incubators and early-stage growth accelerators, are all coming together to make the city a dominating player in the global technology scene. Additionally, consistent with its history of being a center for applied technologies, Chicago’s technology expertise is based on a concentration of information intensive industries.

  • Communications equipment manufacturing
  • Internet publishing & broadcasting
  • Wired telecommunications carriers
  • Data processing, hosting & related services
  • Securities & commodity contracts brokerage and exchanges
  • Technical consulting services
  • Scientific R&D services


  • 535,000+ employed in health services industry
  • 91 hospitals
  • 6 medical schools

Transportation & Distribution

Chicago has dominated the North American transportation and distribution scene since the 1850s. In the past 20 years, it has become the major crossroads of America's global trade. Consequently, Chicago offers the most competitive and cost-effective transportation center in the Americas.

  • Central location with air, rail, and water distribution capacity
  • Hub of six of seven Class I U.S. railroads
  • Top 5 Container Port in the World, handling over 13 million TEU's
  • Convergence of six major highways
  • Chicago’s airport system ships and receives 1.5 million tons of freight, mail, and goods annually
  • Non-stop global gateway to more than 50 international and 150 domestic business centers
  • Two ports capable of handling ocean-going ships and barges
  • Linked to the Atlantic via St. Lawrence Seaway and to the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi River