Hessen has the dynamics of its economy to thank for its present success. In the past quarter-century, none of Germany’s non-city states has achieved a higher GDP per economically active person. This was around €71,800 in 2011 – more than 16% above the federal average. But Hessen is ahead of many other federal states in numbers of people employed as well as in labour productivity: The unemployment rate is distinctly lower here than elsewhere. At the end of 2011 Hessen’s unemployment rate was 5.4%, compared to a federal average of 6.7%. The manufacturing sector accounts for 570,000 jobs, while the service industries employ 1.7 million people.
The production and service sectors can be broken down in more detail. Ten traditional but future-oriented fields make a particular contribution to Hessen’s strength. In northern Hessen the logistics, vehicle manufacturing and energy sectors predominate. Central Hessen draws particular strength from biotechnology, the optical industries and medical technology. Southern Hessen concentrates on the automobile industry, the financial sector, chemical industries and information and communications technology. With a firm base in Hessen’s three regions, these industries range widely on the international stage. Standing at 52% in 2011, the export ratio of the manufacturing sector lies above the federal average. In 2010, the Hessian economy exported goods worth €51.6 billion, which represents a 20% increase over the crisis-hit year of 2009.
Hessen’s internationality is unmistakeable. One important measure lies in foreign direct investment, adding up to over €70 billion – accounting for nearly 15% of the German total. Why do companies from abroad rate Hessen so highly? For one thing, they benefit from the state’s central location and unrivalled infrastructure. Frankfurt’s airport and central station, for instance, are among the most important hubs on the European continent. But a fortunate intersection of air and rail connections is just one reason for investment. A meeting of research endeavour and entrepreneurship is another. Clusters and networks have developed across Hessen with the aim of encouraging innovation and spurring new initiatives. Members of the science and business communities – representatives of institutions and companies – maintain a lively exchange. They all have one aim: ‘Keep Hessen in the lead’.