Manufacturing Jobs and the U.S. Economy

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Manufacturers mostly produce consumer goods, which buyers tend to resist purchasing when the economy starts weakening. As demand for goods diminishes, manufacturers either recruit fewer workers or cut down on existing employees in order to keep costs manageable. The availability of manufacturing jobs, therefore, is a good indicator of how the economy is faring.

By comparing current employment data with data from previous years, one may conclude that the U.S. economy is showing signs of cooling down. Jobs increased by a scanty 1.5% over the past year. According to employment reports, 132,000 new jobs were added in June. However, to keep the economy steady, about 150,000 new jobs are required monthly. Although healthcare, social assistance, food services, and wholesale trade employment rose, the number of manufacturing jobs has continued to decline since October of last year. In June, manufacturing jobs witnessed a 1.3% decline compared to the same month in the year before.

The manufacturing industry lost 18,000 jobs in June, with component industries such as primary metals accounting for 5,000 job losses, computer and electronic products for 4,000, wood products for 4,000, and textiles for 2,000. However, good news came from the machinery and beverage and tobacco industries, which added 6,000 and 3,000 additional jobs respectively in June.

The above data are key indicators that the U.S. economy is slowing down. According to Michael Ettlinger and Liana Fox of the Economic Policy Institute, since the end of the most recent recession (November 2001), the U.S. has generated 7 million new jobs, an increase of more than 5%. Michigan and Ohio have lost 159,000 and 136,000 manufacturing jobs respectively since 2001. These figures account for about 15% of the total number of manufacturing jobs in Ohio and 20% of the total number of manufacturing jobs in Michigan. California fared even worse with respect to manufacturing job losses. According to the Delaware Manufacturers Register published by Manufacturers' News, Inc., (MNI) Delaware's level of manufacturing employment has declined by 0.5%.

A new industrial guide states that Colorado has lost 1.4% of its manufacturing jobs during the past year. MNI's 2008 Colorado Manufacturers Directory reports that since 2006, Colorado has lost 3,049 jobs and 113 manufacturing plants. According to the directory, Colorado's losses occurred because of small companies shutting down. 71% of manufacturers in the state that closed their businesses employed five or fewer employees. Denver has lost 4,398 jobs and 45 manufacturers since May 2006, accounting for a 9% decline in industry employment.

Some disagree that the U.S. economy is slowing down. Although the first quarter of the year saw a feeble 0.6% growth rate, most economists believe that GDP growth for the second quarter and for the rest of the year will be around 3%.
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