This week, Monster released a survey of over 6000 users indicating that 47% of manufacturing workers are dissatisfied with their current jobs, and only 34% expressed confidence about securing a new position!
Not too long ago, the buzz about the new jobs being created in manufacturing was really loud! When America started adding many new jobs in the manufacturing sector, there was a lot of speculation regarding an industry which has seen nothing but lay-offs and pink slips since the 1990s. Some manufacturers added the jobs in the US, even though they had other units operating in China, Mexico and other countries. In spite of complaints about the lack of adequate and qualified personnel to fill certain roles like machinists and quality controllers, the number of manufacturing jobs today stands at the same level where the industry was in late 1940.
Manufacturing jobs started falling in the 1980s, with work being shipped off to lower cost locations. 41% of manufacturing jobs were lost between 1979 and 2009. The share of factory jobs fell by 4.3% between 2000 till 2009. The ways in which the employment numbers in the sector have fluctuated over the last 70 years (to return almost to the same level) are illustrated by the following graph, based on data taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
America is slowly getting back to making and selling products. As the American manufacturing industry went into a free fall with jobs vanishing overnight since 2001 the auto industry alone saw job losses over 400,000. Investor confidence was almost non-existent but the industry has managed to withstand the travails of change and stayed resilient. Today, business is booming for defense and aerospace manufacturers who in turn create business for many job shops. Companies are seeing full order books and also bringing jobs back from overseas as the costs of offshoring have grown significantly higher.
Today, policy makers are taking steps to protect American manufacturing jobs. Tax policy changes are removing the tax breaks for offshoring and offering tax breaks for keeping work here – as well as other measures to boost sales of American products. The government has encouraged the banking industry to provide attractive financing to manufacturers.
Government statistics do show an undeniable rebound for manufacturers in productivity as well as employment. Unemployment in manufacturing, which reached a high of 13% has dropped to 8.4%. In the July’13 report of the Institute for Supply Management on the Global manufacturing industry, we find that the American manufacturing industry has witnessed output growth while new export opportunities and orders stood at a 2-year high in July.
The survey report from Monster supports this optimism when it talks about 3 million visits to manufacturing jobs on Monster’s site. The survey also indicates that many of the new hires in industries like pharmaceutical preparation, aircraft manufacturing and other industrial positions are through placement agencies or on turnkey basis. Temporary employment grew at over 7 per cent against a 2 per cent growth in regular employment
We know well that any growth in manufacturing creates work in other sectors like business services, consultancies and accounting firms – so it is time a time for optimism. The unanswered question: is this growth spurt sustainable?
The uncertain economy, payroll tax hike and the mandates of the Affordable Healthcare Act support the potential for continued growth in temporary employment. Will that translate into a corresponding growth in permanent positions? How will American manufacturers address the lost skills resulting from decades of declines? What new sources of talent can be developed to provide the STEM skills needed for modern manufacturing plants? These questions can only be answered by monitoring the resurgence of the industrial sector over a longer period of time.
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