Manufacturing jobs begin 2012 with strong gains

February 6, 2012

Though some economists forecasted a rough beginning for the manufacturing sector in 2012, due in part to a stagnant economy in Europe, the jobs report showed a different story for the industry, according to USA Today.

The news source reported that the nation's manufacturing facilities added 50,000 jobs in January, the highest number recorded in the past year, on top of 32,000 new positions in December. This month-over-month rise showed an emerging trend in the sector, which was the second-biggest gainer in employment, behind professional and business services.

Economists are uncertain as to the sector's ability to sustain this type of growth for the entire year, but there are other indications that manufacturing activity could accelerate more than expected.

"There's reason to be optimistic," Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, told USA Today.

Zandi had predicted manufacturing employment would be flat this year, but has now adjusted his projections to a total rise in payrolls of about 250,000. This would mark the third-straight year-over-year rise for the industry.

The news source reported that economists have attributed the gains to the resurgence of specific sectors like the auto industry, along with the easing of worries concerning the European debt crisis.

The future of the sector is reliant upon many factors, ranging from the resolution of the euro zone crisis to the continued success of the auto industry, but a resurgence of the construction market could help manufacturing more than anything.

If that takes off, "then you're going to see some very dramatic increases in manufacturing," an industry executive told USA Today.

A release from the National Association of Manufacturers noted that more than 14 percent of the job growth in the U.S. since December 2010 occurred in the manufacturing sector. Sentiment surveys have suggested that companies in the industry are optimistic that there will be significant hiring and growth in 2012, and activity will continue to pick up.

The type of jobs is also shifting in the American manufacturing sector, as the wages for these positions have mirrored the rise in the requirements for many jobs in the industry. The New York Times reported that pay is high because production is capital-intensive and technologically sophisticated.

Workers in the sector have had more training, higher levels of education and, because of this, higher pay, according to the newspaper.