Manufacturing Employment in the United States

The U.S. used to be a booming industrial power that churned out millions of products created on assembly lines by factory workers. Manufacturing has been the backbone of the U.S. economy for decades. Over the past 20 years, however,  employment in manufacturing has steadily decreased. At one time, Americans could count on getting a good paying factory job right out of high school. Workers could create a great middle-class lifestyle and work until retirement. Many retirees received generous pensions.

However, outsourcing of manufacturing jobs has made it increasingly difficult for Americans to find stable employment at factories. Currently, there are still opportunities to be employed at workplaces that manufacture goods. The type and quality of these jobs vary greatly.

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Some Manufacturing Jobs Returning to U.S.
A recent study involving U.S. firms that sell over $1 billion of goods reveals some good news. Over half of these companies are currently bringing back or considering bringing back manufacturing jobs back to America from China. Some of the main reasons for this shift are labor and transportation costs, quality of product and closer proximity to customers.

Location of Most New Manufacturing Jobs
Anyone who is hoping to find the best employment opportunities for working in the manufacturing industry may have to relocate. Many states that used to have strong manufacturing towns have seen drastic losses of these types of jobs. Manufacturing is quickly becoming concentrated in a smaller group of states. Midwest and southern states are where most new jobs can be found. The exceptions are Texas and Washington.

The top 10 manufacturing job states are: Michigan, Texas, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, Washington, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Iowa.

Low Skill vs. High Skill Jobs
The nature of manufacturing jobs is rapidly changing. In the past, the majority of factory jobs required very little skill. Workers were trained to assemble parts along the line and did not need advanced training. Modern factory jobs increasingly require specialized skills. Robotics has replaced many human workers. The development, operation and maintenance of sophisticated technology is now required.

Manufacturing companies are constantly looking for workers who have either a college or trade degree that includes advanced technological skills. Some low skilled workers are fortunate to get retraining for high skilled jobs.

Factory-less Jobs
There are companies that have jobs centered on designing and coordinating various processes for physical goods. These jobs are closely related to manufacturing but are not formally considered by the U.S. government to be factory jobs.

Apple is a good example of this type of firm. They hire engineers, designers, tech support, marketing, customer service and sales employees at home to support products assembled overseas. U.S. workers fill these factory-less jobs.

Opportunities for Younger Workers
As the older generation continues to age out of their manufacturing jobs, companies are becoming more desperate to fill positions with younger workers. There has been such an upheaval in factory employment that its image has been greatly tarnished among young people.

Few young people today aspire to work a manufacturing job compared to previous generations. These jobs are now considered to be unappealing and low paying. Companies will need to act fast to reverse their image. Around 80 percent of current factory workers are between the ages of 45 and 65.

On the bright side, this represents an opportunity for younger workers to research the best jobs in manufacturing. If they acquire the necessary skills training, their job prospects are brighter in a newly revamped manufacturing industry.

Article Sources:
http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com
http://finance.yahoo.com
http://www.bloomberg.com
http://www.washingtonpost.com
http://management.fortune.cnn.com

James Spader
 

Comes from a long line of American manufacturers and small business owners. His passions have always been journalism and World War II history. When not working, he enjoys cooking and competing in amateur chess tournaments.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 3 comments
Kevin

It seems to me that U.S. factories are closing. American manufacturing jobs are reappearing overseas. China’s industrial might is growing each year. And it might seem as if the United States doesn’t make world-class goods as well as some other nations. There’s no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains, or the new factories that manufacture clean energy products. Yet America remains by far the No. 1 manufacturing country. It out-produces No. 2 China. U.S. manufacturers cranked out nearly $1.7 trillion in goods in 2009, according to the United Nations.

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Ross

I would think that one of the major reasons why some manufacturing companies are seeing new possibilities operating in the U.S. is because they also see a future where they serve and relate to their customers better. Customer service has always been tied to sales and I suppose these companies are trying to work smarter and that would mean improving their customer service which will lead to increased sales. That sounds good to any American consumer.

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John

I don’t see anything wrong with having workers in manufacturing between the ages of 45 to 65. I understand that you want younger persons to embark on a long term career path and become ultra-experienced in various aspects of manufacturing respectively. However, the fact remains that for the majority of younger persons, there are sexier, more lucrative career paths that you tend to choose when you are young. On the other hand, there are no shortage of middle aged persons who have not had success in other areas and would love to embark (albeit late) on a career in manufacturing, and they should not be overlooked.

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