During the 18th century the Illinois country was primarily a pioneer land where fur trapping was carried on, where some lead was mined in the Galena area, and where farming was generally limited to the fertile bottomlands along the Mississippi and Wabash rivers. With the influx of settlers in the first half of the 19th century, much of the rest of Illinois, including the prairie lands of central Illinois, came under cultivation. Economic activities in the state were centered on farming and on the manufacture of tools and farm and household equipment for the pioneer farmers. Railroad construction in the 1850s and demands for food and materials during the American Civil War (1861-1865) spurred the development of the young state’s economy. During the second half of the 19th century, agriculture became highly mechanized, and industry expanded rapidly, especially in the Chicago area.
By the beginning of the 20th century, Illinois had emerged as a leading agricultural and industrial state. In the following decades, commerce, finance, insurance, and other areas of economic activity became increasingly important in Illinois. Services, manufacturing, and finance are the leading economic activities in Illinois, each contributing 15 times as much to the total income generated in the state as does agriculture. Nevertheless, agriculture is still a major economic activity, and Illinois usually ranks as one of the five most productive farming states in the nation. Illinois had a work force of 6,264,000 people in 2008. Of those the largest share, 36 percent, were employed in the diverse service industry, doing such jobs as data processing or working in restaurants. Another 19 percent worked in wholesale or retail trade; 11 percent in manufacturing; 14 percent in federal, state, or local government, including those in the military; 21 percent in finance, insurance, or real estate; 20 percent in transportation or public utilities; 5 percent in construction; 2 percent in farming (including agricultural services), forestry, or fishing; and just 0.2 percent in mining. In 2007, 15 percent of Illinois’ workers were unionized. "Illinois" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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