Industry Employment Outlook – Manufacturing (2)

Build a Career in Manufacturing  |  The Jobs Are Changing, and Veterans Are in Demand  | 

Published in the July/August 2013 issue of print Search & Employ®  | 

If the word “manufacturing” makes you think of giant factories full of grimy, noisy machines tended by multitudes of workers in overalls and hard hats, you need to update your thinking. Yes, there are still some plants like that in the United States, but they are becoming rarer and rarer as technology and specialized training take over the factory floor. There are fewer workers on the floor these days, and the factories of tomorrow will have even fewer.

But manufacturing jobs are not vanishing – they are just changing. Opportunities are increasing in support occupations – marketing, information technology, delivery, etc.

Educational requirements are changing as well. It will take at least a two-year degree – and probably soon, a four-year degree – to work on tomorrow’s high-tech factory floors. As a result, salaries will be higher.

What is behind all this change? The continuing challenge for manufacturing companies to create processes and equipment to help them produce goods more efficiently than their competitors.

Despite the change – or perhaps because of it – 9 percent of all jobs in the United States are tied to manufacturing. Even more impressive is that manufacturing represents a staggering 67 percent of private-sector research and development (R&D) spending as well as 30 percent of the country’s productivity growth.

Since the recession, manufacturing has grown more rapidly in the United States than in other advanced nations. Over the past three years, more than 500,000 manufacturing jobs have been created in the United States. One reason for this growth is that U.S. manufacturing companies have access to cheaper energy than overseas firms.

The news gets better. Manufacturing jobs usually pay well and provide good benefits, as shown by a report released in May 2012 by the Economic and Statistics Administration, a part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The report, “The Benefits of Manufacturing Jobs,” said that, on average, hourly wages and salaries for manufacturing jobs were $29.75 an hour, compared with $27.47 an hour for non-manufacturing jobs. Total hourly compensation, which includes employer-provided benefits, was $38.27 for workers in manufacturing jobs and $32.84 for workers in non-manufacturing jobs.

Some Americans will be surprised by this good news; they have become accustomed to seeing manufacturing jobs go overseas. But in recent years, some key American manufacturers have either brought jobs back from Asia and Latin America or have decided not to export the jobs in the first place.

Manufacturers have discovered the value of bringing production closer to the point of sale, where their employees can engage more directly with customers and adapt quickly to changes in the market. Other factors include rising salaries in China; new labor, environmental, and safety regulations abroad; and the higher cost of energy required to ship products halfway around the world.

But the jobs that are returning will not look much like the jobs that left. The old assembly line is mostly gone. Manufacturing workers will need to be smarter and better trained to get the best jobs in the industry.


Manufacturing is strong in the United States

*  In 2012, manufacturers contributed $1.87 trillion to the economy, 11.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), up from $1.73 trillion in 2011.

*  For every $1.00 spent in manufacturing, another $1.48 is added to the economy, the highest multiplier effect of any economic sector.

*  Manufacturing supports an estimated 17.2 million jobs in the United States — about one in six private-sector jobs.

*  Nearly 12 million Americans (or 9 percent of the workforce) are employed directly in manufacturing.

*  In 2011, the average manufacturing worker in the United States earned $77,060 annually, including pay and benefits. The average worker in all industries earned $60,168.

*  Manufacturers in the United States are the most productive in the world, far surpassing the worker productivity of any other major manufacturing economy, leading to higher wages and living standards.

*  Manufacturers in the United States perform two-thirds of all private-sector research and development (R&D) in the nation, driving more innovation than any other sector.

*  Taken alone, manufacturing in the United States would be the 10th largest economy in the world.

-  From the National Association of Manufacturers (


About the Author

This article was written by Jay Myers