Made in America is back, so US factories are scrambling to find workers. | So Good News


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With a hiring boom not seen in decades, U.S. factories are humming and manufacturers are scrambling to find workers.

Friday’s September jobs report showed U.S. manufacturers added 22,000 more workers in September, adding nearly 500,000 jobs in the sector over the past 12 months.

Nearly 13 million workers are employed in US factories. The industry’s largest workforce since the Great Depression brought about a decline more than a dozen years ago. Since April, manufacturing jobs have grown at an annual rate of 4%, the fastest growth rate since 1984, and the sector more than doubled its share of U.S. employment.

And employers say they are now struggling to fill more jobs. There were sectors. Despite the uptick in hiring, about 800,000 openings were created for the most part last year, according to a Labor Department report.

With supply chains causing problems throughout the global economy. U.S. companies that depend on foreign suppliers are shifting their focus to parts and products closer to home.

“It took months to not only manufacture the parts, but to come through, and they decided they were willing to pay the price of US manufacturing to make it that much faster,” Carnegie, Pennsylvania, said. Carnegie, said Hayden Jennison, production manager for the Pennsylvania company. It makes everything from fire extinguishers to construction machines. He said there was enough demand for his product for an entire extra shift for factory workers. But even though he was paying $20 to $30 an hour, he couldn’t find the workers he needed.

“Hiring has been an issue since 2020,” Jennison said. “It’s very difficult to hire experienced candidates who understand the industry and understand what they’re doing.”

Factory jobs and output typically suffer during a recession just as they did during the Great Recession. But now, fearing that the economic downturn will rise, Industry experts do not expect factories to default to their familiar boom-to-bust cycle this time around.

“I think we’re in uncharted territory,” said Jay Timmons, CEO of the National Association of Producers.

Timmons said wages in the sector rose 5% last year and are expected to continue rising as manufacturers increase competition for skilled labor.

Experts say one of the biggest problems manufacturers face in attracting workers is their perception of the nature of the work.

“We often look at production images and see sparks flying and welding environments. A little dingy and dark. But today, our manufacturing jobs are very high-tech,” said Eric Esoda, CEO of the nonprofit, which provides consulting and training services to small and medium-sized manufacturers in northeastern Pennsylvania.

One group employers are looking for more help: women. Manufacturing remains a male-dominated industry, with only 30 percent of hourly factory jobs held by women, according to NAM. But that’s a 27 percent increase from two years ago, and the Manufacturing Institute, an education and workforce development arm of NAM, has a number of programs aimed at raising the share of women workers on the factory floor to 35 percent by 2030.

Today, private sector employment is less than 10 percent in manufacturing, compared with more than 40 percent after World War II. But it is still an important sector of the economy. The payout is much better than others. The Labor Department reports that the average weekly wage for manufacturing jobs is $1,250, or $65,000 a year — 11% higher than jobs in the private sector as a whole and 81% higher than retail jobs.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Hayden Jennison’s job title.


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