Job outlook brightens for workers in U.S. factories

January 11, 2012

Manufacturing and mining are set to power growth in the U.S. job market this year, from auto assembly plants to the gas and oil fields, according to Bloomberg.

The news source reported that the two industries helped spark the largest annual job gains for the economy in five years, as the 2011 data outlined expansion of the workforce.

According to Bloomberg, factory payrolls are growing at the highest rate in 14 years and mining added more jobs than any period during the past three decades, the Labor Department figures outlined.

Economists Peter Cappelli and John Silvia noted that gains in these industries are expected to carry over into 2012. The improvement may spread beyond the factory floors and fracking operations, according to the news source, as the construction sector and leisure industry may also benefit.

Last year's gains in employment "are good signs for this year," according to Cappelli, an economist and director of the Center for Human Resources at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. "Manufacturing is the most important story because it has spillover effects on other industries in a way that services may not."

Further growth in the labor market would help to bolster incomes and lead to more consumer spending, according to the news source, helping to spur manufacturing and other industries.

"We’re on a good path here for job gains," Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo Securities LLC in Charlotte, North Carolina, told Bloomberg. "It’s part and parcel of an economy that’s improving at a pretty decent pace."

The two economists noted that the jump in mining and manufacturing jobs, which has been underpinned by the leading role factories played in contributing to the economic recovery, has indicated rising demand for skilled, higher-paid workers.

"The people getting hired are the ones with more skills," said Silvia. "These are not your traditional assembly-line, turn-a-screw kind of jobs like we had in the 1950s and ‘60s."

Industry Week reported that these high-skilled jobs are being kept in the U.S. and not moved overseas, due to the fact that a high level of technical expertise is necessary.

The growth in American industry is not expected to slow down anytime soon, as new projects have been projected to add a significant number of jobs in certain states. According to The Canadian Press, the $7 billion Keystone XL Pipeline, if approved, would bring manufacturing jobs to areas like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Oklahoma, among others.