Demographic changes, technological development and changing global cost structures now promise to make America among the most competitive manufacturing nations in the world.
For decades, manufacturing has been viewed by many people as an industry on the decline in the United States. As the American economy shifted ever more heavily towards services, factory employment in the country has steadily deteriorated. American manufacturing employment peaked at nearly 19.5 million in 1979, and has been steadily on the decline since then, averaging around 12 million throughout the 2010s.
In addition, the past several decades saw the emergence of substantial, low cost, rival manufacturing centers around the globe – particularly in Asia.
Despite this there are indications manufacturing in America has a dynamic future. There are at least three reasons to be optimistic about the future of manufacturing in America.
1) Energy Prices
Manufacturing is a very energy-intensive economic sector. Not only are electricity demands for industrial production enormous, but natural gas and other petroleum inputs are foundational raw materials for many products. Numerous chemicals, including plastics and fertilizer, are manufactured using natural gas. In 2021, the U.S. Energy Information Agency reported industrial energy consumption was 25% greater than residential and commercial consumption combined.
Launching a new career, or considering changing a current one, can be daunting and even more so during the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. But In spite of the negative effects of the pandemic on many industries, manufacturing can offers opportunities.
Manufacturing is an evolving industry, especially in southwestern Idaho ranging from semi-conductor chip manufacturing to potato chip manufacturing. The skill levels of the workforce over the past couple of decades have changed dramatically as manufacturing is more automated and less physically demanding in many cases. Markets have changed with more global opportunities for Idaho products.
The highest level of manufacturing among Idaho’s six regions is in southwestern Idaho with more than 30,000 jobs across its 10 counties – 47 percent of all Idaho manufacturing jobs. South central Idaho has the next largest share at just 15 percent. The southwestern region’s 10 counties are diverse and include the state’s largest metropolitan area, Boise, remote small counties with logging traditions and vast counties citing its greatest population density as sagebrush and four-legged beef cattle. The share of manufacturing jobs in southwestern Idaho is higher than the nation’s by 4 percent but ranks fifth in share among Idaho’s six regions — the other five regions have significantly fewer total jobs than southwestern Idaho. The trend is showing some downward movement due to reduced production by large tech employers such as HP and Micron.
For Immediate Release: Feb. 12, 2019 Information Contact: John Russ, (208) 332-3570 ext. 3303
Premier Technology in Blackfoot is the most recent company in Idaho to earn a certificate establishing its first Registered Apprenticeship program. Premier’s new apprenticeship for machinists became registered with the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship for meeting national standards.
The idea took root after Premier’s Human Resources Manager Nicole Simpson attended a presentation at Idaho State University, where the Idaho Department of Labor and Idaho Career and Technical Education shared information about how to establish an apprenticeship program and its benefits. With support from Premier’s management, Simpson got in touch with John Russ, the Apprenticeship Idaho coordinator at Labor.
“It was daunting to see all this information about registered apprenticeships and figure out how to put this program together, but the Department of Labor made it very easy,” Simpson said.
Some of the best paying and best prospective occupations in Idaho are associated with bringing ideas into reality – creating prototypes and manufacturing the product for the market.
Domingo Angeles from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides a national perspective on these occupations and their outlook. While Angeles uses the design and manufacture of automobiles as his example, Idaho companies engaged in the manufacturing and design of all manner of products pull together the same mix of occupations to staff the teams that put in the hard, collaborative work to bring ideas to market.
In Angeles’ article, he identified careers related to developing prototypes include software developers, graphic designers, mechanical and electrical engineers and industrial designers. Table 1 provides employment, wage, projected openings and typical education levels for each occupation on a national level.
For Immediate Release: Oct. 12, 2018 Information Contact: Jose DeLeon, Idaho Department of Labor, (208) 364-7781 ext. 3620
Job seekers are encouraged to attend an event at the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa Oct. 17, from 3 – 6 p.m., as part of the MADE HERE! EXPO & JOB FAIR in support of National Manufacturing Day and Idaho Manufacturing Month.
At least half of the 75 plus exhibitors representing manufacturing and related industries will be recruiting workers during the event. The expo, organized by Southwest Idaho Manufacturers’ Alliance, also targets parents, teachers and students with interactive displays, information about the modern manufacturing environment and the numerous career opportunities available in the industry.
Automation and how technology will change the way we work is an overarching theme in economic analysis today. Computing power has made workers more effective and efficient in a variety of industries, and in some settings human workers have been replaced altogether.
Manufacturing is a prime example. Products assembled by long lines of robotic equipment are a visible reminder of how technology has changed the way Americans work. Since 2000, American industrial output – defined as the total value of the country’s factories, mines and power plants – has grown by just over 10 percent, adjusted for inflation. In that same period, total employment – the number of working hours required to create that output – has shrunk by 29 percent. Technology has made American industry more efficient than ever, and factories are getting increasingly more production out of a shrinking workforce.
Best known for potatoes and dairy, agriculture has long been viewed as the staple of Idaho’s economy. While agriculture continues to play an important role, manufacturing has quietly become one of the leading industries driving the economy forward. In recent years Idaho has gained a unique competitive advantage in the industry with an increased concentration of manufacturing jobs being added to the economy. Although growth in manufacturing has struggled nationally, Idaho is poised to see continued growth in the industry.
Since the end of the recession in 2010, Idaho’s manufacturing industry has fueled the state’s economic expansion. Of the jobs added to Idaho’s economy between 2010 and 2014, manufacturing had the second highest growth rate at 12.7 percent – nearly doubling the state’s total job growth of 6.9 percent. The 6,700 jobs added in manufacturing accounted for 16 percent of the state’s total job growth since the end of the recession.
South central Idaho was named a manufacturing community by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker under the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership Program. The emphasis is on food production, food processing and science.
The criteria encompassed six aspects of manufacturing and required strategies and outcomes to be developed in these areas:
workforce and training;
infrastructure and site development;
supply chain support;
and capital access.
The program stresses mutually beneficial partnerships and participation between the community’s industry, governmental leaders both local and state, and its economic development professionals.
Industry leaders in the food production and food processing arenas will have the opportunity for assistance in navigating the governmental intricacies of exporting product — individuals who are knowledgeable on U.S. policy as well as the country that could receive commodities or products from south central Idaho.
Specific strategies will be released over the coming year to make the huge food production and processing cluster more sustainable, more efficient and more profitable, particularly in the counties of Twin Falls, Jerome, Cassia and Minidoka.
Eleven other areas nationally received the designation in this second round.
Over the past two decades, manufacturing with its traditionally higher-paying jobs has become a smaller and smaller component of both the national and Idaho economies.
Manufacturing in Idaho has staged a modest rebound since the end of the recession, primarily in food processing – the lowest-paying piece of the three-part manufacturing super sector. But it still remained well below its 1990 levels although in 2013 manufacturing accounted for a greater percentage of Idaho jobs than it did nationally.
Even with that gain, however, the composition of Idaho’s manufacturing sector has changed significantly over the past 20 years even as its overall economic impact has declined. What was essentially a fairly even split of jobs among nondurable production like food processing, resource manufacturing like wood products, and other durables like computer chips and machinery, has become dominated by production of other durables as wood products manufacturing steadily contracted. Continue reading →
In recent years, the manufacturing industry in the United States has been a skeleton of what it once was. As some manufacturers outsourced work to foreign countries in pursuit of cost savings, others simply struggled to stay alive, unable to keep up with increasing competition in an ever-expanding global economy.
From 2000 to 2010, manufacturing posted net job losses each year. Manufacturing jobs decreased 30 percent, losing more than 5 million jobs over the decade. Regardless of the cause, once proud cities like Detroit are left desolate by the relative death of the industry.