Last month’s overall employment numbers were a mixed picture of growth, with 115,000 private sector jobs added and unemployment down slightly to 8.1 percent. Although the overall economy was not a clear winner in April—and we need to do more to spur economic growth — the numbers show there is somewhat of a revival afoot in the manufacturing sector.
In April, the manufacturing sector enjoyed the fastest growth rate in 10 months banking 16,000 more jobs, and since January of 2010 has added 489,000 jobs. These are standout stats, given that the rest of the economy is not yet showing growth at this rate and the fact that other comparable economic sectors did not fare as well. Last month, transportation lost 17,000 jobs and there was little change in construction employment.
The outlook for American manufacturing, like the auto industry not so long ago, was deemed dead on arrival, but output for manufacturing has now topped pre-recession peaks.
Manufacturing has been held high for so long because the existence of good, manufacturing jobs are interlinked with the health of the middle class. These jobs offer a pathway to the middle class for the 68 percent of American workers with less than a college degree. On average, each manufacturing job supports 2.5 jobs in other sectors, and, at the upper end, each high tech manufacturing job supports 16 jobs. In short, manufacturing jobs are a ladder for people to move to the middle-class, and they are the backbone of a strong economy.
Dr. Julie Heath explained in a recent Cincinnati Enquirer op-ed, manufacturing is "still important to our economy." Heath says that manufacturing's great benefit is the good wages it provides:
“Wage premiums in the manufacturing sector have declined, but remain about 21 percent higher than in private, non-agricultural sectors. These are well-paying jobs that are typically accompanied by good benefits.”
In 2009, national average compensation—including benefits--for manufacturing workers was $74,447, compared to $63,122 for non-manufacturing workers.
Where we go from here is important both for the economy overall and for workers. In order to meet the needs of this growth, workers must be trained for 21st century jobs and manufacturing jobs must continue to be created here and not overseas. Without strategic policies in place moving forward last month’s manufacturing growth is an anomaly rather that the start of a robust revival in American manufacturing.
The BlueGreen Alliance’s Jobs21! Initiative – our plan to create and keep good jobs in the 21st century--recognizes the importance of revitalizing our manufacturing sector. Read more about it and sign the Jobs21! pledge today at www.bluegreenalliance.org/jobs21.