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CPBJ Extra Blog

Where's the resurgence, y'all?

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Manufacturing resurgence. Where is it?

Pennsylvania stats illustrate an industry that's standing still for now, especially in terms of establishments (total manufacturing facilities) and employment.

Average total employment for Pennsylvania manufacturers was 561,368 in the first quarter of 2013, down 16 percent from 669,452 in the same quarter of 2006, according to quarterly census of employment and wages data from the Pennsylvania Center for Workforce Information & Analysis.

Likewise, the number of manufacturing facilities has dropped 10 percent from 2006, to 14,593, in the first quarter of 2013.

The good news for those working in Pennsylvania manufacturing is that pay is getting better. The average weekly wage across Pennsylvania was $1,123, a 16 percent increase from 2006.

So when the guy next to you loses his job, you get a 1 percent pay increase. FYI, I'm being sarcastic; that's not scientific.

The recession took a huge bite out of the economy, and there have been downward trends in manufacturing for decades. But the wage thing illustrates that some of the companies remaining are doing better and are willing to pay their workers more, which helps inject money into the general economy.

In the five-county Central Pennsylvania region, the number of facilities in the first quarter dropped by just 1.2 percent from 2012, to 2,063, while employment dropped 1.7 percent, to 94,303. However, the average weekly wage in this same region increased by 0.9 percent, to $1,086.60.

We looked at regional manufacturing employment earlier in the year to get a perspective on some of the issues. You can read that story here.

Statewide, there has been some improvement over the past two years in manufacturing employment, with those numbers waxing and waning in each quarter. However, the first quarter of 2013 saw 561,368 workers in the industry, an increase of 0.6 percent from 2011.

That's small, but there could be some room for improvement in 2014. Particularly if more companies embrace technology. This story on Scientific American magazine's website takes a look at technology issues in manufacturing.

While some automation technologies mean fewer employees per facility, they can also give U.S. manufacturers an edge. And in recent months there have been announcements about manufacturers locating in the state, like this one, or even expanding their existing presence.

And executives at manufacturers nationally are optimistic that 2014 could be better, according to this Bloomberg story. With Pennsylvania's strategic location near most of the U.S. population, hopefully we'll snag some of that manufacturing business.

Resurgence, however, is a harder fish to catch.

Jim T. Ryan

Jim T. Ryan

Jim T. Ryan covers Cumberland County, manufacturing, distribution, transportation and logistics. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at jimr@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JimTRyanCPBJ.

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