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Where Are the Best Places in the U.S. to Be a Manufacturing Worker?

Posted By Jeff Moad, September 27, 2016 at 4:20 PM, in Category: Next-Generation Leadership and the Changing Workforce

wm_d99e387b86d870a245642af2ba8bbe57.jpgAfter many years subjected to job losses due to outsourcing, offshoring, and automation, are U.S. manufacturing workers finally in store for some good news? Yes and no. While manufacturing employment is up since the end of the Great Recession—as is overall manufacturing output--outsourcing has not stopped, nor has automation, putting downward pressure on manufacturing job growth. And, although many manufacturing employers complain that they can’t find all the skilled people they need, manufacturing wages in many parts of the country continue to fall.

On the other hand, there are a few parts of the country—most of them in the southern metro areas—where it’s relatively good to be a manufacturing worker right now. A recent study by online consumer finance advisory service SmartAsset suggests that 13 of the best 25 U.S. regions for manufacturing workers right now are in the South. While Wisconsin notched the most metro areas on the top 25 list—four--the states of Kentucky, South Carolina, Texas, and Alabama all sported multiple metro areas on the SmartAsset top 25 “Best Places to Work in Manufacturing” list.

Ranking metro areas in the South and Midwest tended to benefit from relatively rapid job growth rates as well as lower cost of living.

The SmartAsset rankings were based on U.S. Census Bureau data and a formula that factored in one-year and five-year manufacturing employment growth, manufacturing jobs as a percentage of the total workforce, one-year and five-year income growth, and income after housing costs.

Kentucky’s Richmond-Berea metro area came out on top of the list, thanks largely to a relatively big manufacturing workforce (19.3% of the total workforce) and a one-year job growth rate of 40.33%, the highest among listed areas.

Other metro areas rising to the top 10 on the list (in order) were Charleston-North Charleston, SC; Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX; Morgantown, WV; Longview, WA; Marinette, WI/MI; Charlottesville, VA; Watertown-Fort Atkinson, WI; Ogden-Clearfield, UT; and Odessa, TX.

While Richmond-Berea, KY, benefited from the largest one-year job growth, second on that list was Roanoke Rapids, NC, with a rage of 15%.

Scoring highest in income after housing expenses was third-ranked Beaumont-Port Arthur which came in at $87,227.

Midland, TX, meanwhile, at 2l on the list, featured the highest one-year income growth level at 26.89%.

And the metro area with the highest percentage of its workforce in manufacturing was sixth-ranked Marinette, WI/MI, at 38.3%.


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Written by Jeff Moad

Jeff Moad is Research Director and Executive Editor with the Manufacturing Leadership Community. He also directs the Manufacturing Leadership Awards Program. Follow our LinkedIn Groups: Manufacturing Leadership Council and Manufacturing Leadership Summit



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Hi Jeff:
A very important contributor to why manufacturing is in decline is because with increasing education most people want to work in an office environment. Every major automotive OEM is facing this challenge and it is coming at the same time when most are trying to modernize and implement IIOT, Industry 4.0 initiatives, and data driven decision making etc. This is also the phenomenon in low cost countries where manufacturing has moved from the USA.

I have talked to executives in India , China, Mexico, who all face the same issues. Money only goes so far to entice newly minted graduates to work in a dirty manufacturing environment even with the modern technology of robots and conveyors etc.

A lights out manufacturing facility is still years away, and until then some innovative ways are necessary to keep and cycle young people through manufacturing jobs. I know of some companies that are trying to rotate process engineers through manufacturing so that by the time the grime and grease get to them, they are moved to other positions. Until the manufacturing jobs are made attractive with a combination of pay and other types of innovative job responsibilities, the US will continue to lose new graduates to other professions. The result will be even more manufacturing companies will move overseas!.

Just my thoughts on a subject that is very daunting !!.
Vijay R.
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