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Analyst: Jobs Not Part of Manufacturing Recovery

Greenville News (South Carolina) (03/09/12) Jenny Munro

Manufacturing is generating jobs, but it needs fewer workers because the sector has increased productivity and certain jobs are no longer housed under the factory roof, according to Bruce Yandle, an economist at Clemson University. Manufacturing went through a tough period during the recent recession, notes Yandle, and traditionally, the sector closes its older plants and refurbishes others. That reduces the job numbers but tends to increase the productivity of the remaining employees.

Production in the U.S. is nearly back to prerecession levels, but there has been “hardly any recovery in manufacturing employment,” Yandle says. Another part of the structural change in the manufacturing sector is the move to outsource many of the nonmanufacturing elements of the process. Many plants now use temporary employees to fill some of their positions, saving the companies money and giving management more flexibility. U.S. staffing companies employed an average of 2.8 million temporary and contract workers per day in 2011, up 8% from 2010, according to data recently released by the American Staffing Association.