U.S. Sees Uptick in Manufacturing Jobs, But It’s Uneven Across Regions


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Manufacturing job growth has sped-up modestly in the U.S. during the past two years, but these gains have not been equal in all parts of the country, with the sector showing greater strength in western states and weakness in the northeast.

That’s according to a new report from the think tank Economic Innovation Group. The sector has steadily added jobs since 2010, the authors note. But even if current trends continue it would take over 20 years for manufacturing employment levels to return to where they were in 2000.

Average annual job growth edged up to 1.3% during the first two years of President Trump’s time in office, from around 1.2% between 2010 and 2016. This uptick, the researchers say, translates to an average of about 30,000 additional jobs added annually.

Between 2016 and 2018, the manufacturing sector added about 335,000 jobs, which is the largest sum added over a two-year period since 2012, the report says. Food and beverage manufacturing exhibited particularly healthy growth, adding 93,000 jobs.

Looking between regions, the researchers find that, between 2016 and 2018, two-thirds of counties gained manufacturing jobs, adding about 495,000 of them, while the other one-third together lost a total of 158,000 of the jobs during that time.

Of the 20 counties that saw the greatest gains, in terms of job numbers, during this time period, four were in California, four in Texas, three in Michigan and two in Florida. Alameda County, in the San Francisco bay area, gained the most, adding about 10,000 jobs.

Storey County, Nevada; Santa Clara County, California; Maricopa County, Arizona; and Elkhart County, Indiana all gained about 8,000 manufacturing positions between 2016 and 2018.

Manufacturing jobs increased at an average annual rate from 2016 to 2018 of 3.5% in western counties, 2.2% in the southern counties (doubling compared to the 2010 to 2016 rate in the region), 1.8% in midwest counties and 0.7% in northeast counties.

States with the strongest manufacturing job growth rates during the past two years included: Nevada (27.3%), Arizona (7%), Oklahoma (7%) and Idaho (6.3%). At the bottom end of that spectrum were Alaska and New York, which saw declines of 7% and 1.3% respectively.

The report also highlights that during the past two years nearly half of counties that are economically distressed, according to an EIG index, saw robust manufacturing employment growth, an improvement over trends seen between 2010 and 2016.

A full copy of the report can be found here.

Bill Lucia is a Senior Reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Olympia, Washington.

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