22 September 2017

Factory-Job Rebound Produces Winners, Losers

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MOBILE, Ala.—The U.S. has added about 650,000 factory jobs since their numbers rebounded after the recession, putting manufacturing workers at 12.1 million and reversing a long decline in such jobs. But uneven growth has created regional disparities in the nation's overall economic recovery.

Mobile County is among the winners.

Shipbuilder Austal Ltd.'s facility here is busy seven days a week as workers piece together enormous aluminum sheets in a space the size of 13 football fields. It has added thousands of jobs since 2008 and plans more, thanks to huge U.S. Navy contracts.

Airbus Group and BAE Systems PLC, too, are adding factory jobs here. Mobile County created more manufacturing jobs than all but 15 U.S. counties after September 2009, and such jobs were up 31% in the county.

U.S. factory-job gains—driven by a range of factors from cheaper domestic energy to the auto-industry recovery—have concentrated in pockets since the recession, particularly in the Southeast and Midwest, a Wall Street Journal analysis of Labor Department data shows. Gains often have clustered in places like Mobile where taxes are low and unions are relatively weak.

But private-sector manufacturing jobs declined in 38% of the counties in the Journal analysis of data from September 2009 and September 2013.

Among the worst slides has been in Onondaga County, N.Y., where factory jobs fell 17%. A smokeless brick chimney juts from rusting ruins in the county, where a dinnerware plant near Syracuse closed in 2009 after 138 years. A Lockheed Martin Corp.  electronics plant has cut jobs to about 1,600 from roughly 2,300 in 2009. Unlike Mobile, Syracuse hasn't attracted major new industrial employers.

Manufacturing jobs help a healthy economy because they often create support jobs in other businesses, such as packaging, transportation and other services. But the uneven factory-job recovery is blunting a hoped-for boost to the overall U.S. economy, says Mark Muro, policy director of the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program. 

Click herefor the full article in the Wall Street Journal.

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