Manufacturing jobs are those that create new products directly from either raw materials or components. These jobs are found in a factory, plant, or mill. They can also exist in a home, as long as products, not services, are created.
For example, bakeries, candy stores, and custom tailors are considered manufacturing, because they create products out of components. On the other hand, logging and mining are not considered manufacturing, because they don't change the good into a new product.
Construction is in its own category and is not considered manufacturing. New home builders are construction companies that build single-family homes. New home construction and the commercial real estate construction industry are significant components of gross domestic product.
There were 12.284 million Americans in manufacturing jobs as of March 2021, the National Association of Manufacturers reported from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This number, while steadily improving, is down significantly from 12.826 million in the same period of 2019, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Manufacturers earned $88,406 a year annually, on average. This includes pay and benefits.
U.S. manufacturing workers deserve this pay. They are the most productive in the world. That's due to the increased use of computers and robotics. They also reduced the number of jobs by replacing workers. Yet, 89% of manufacturers are leaving jobs unfilled. They can't find qualified applicants, according to a 2018 Deloitte Institute report. The skills gap could leave 2.4 million vacant jobs between 2018 and 2028. That could cost the industry $2.5 trillion by 2028.
Manufacturers also face 2.69 million jobs to be vacated by retirees. Another 1.96 million are opening up due to growth in the industry. The Deloitte report found that manufacturers need to fill 4.6 million jobs between 2018 and 2028.
Types of Manufacturing Jobs
The U.S. Census divides manufacturing industries into many sectors. Here's a summary:
- Food, Beverage, and Tobacco
- Textiles, Leather, and Apparel
- Wood, Paper, and Printing
- Petroleum, Coal, Chemicals, Plastics, and Rubber
- Nonmetallic Mineral
- Primary Metal, Fabricated Metal, and Machinery
- Computer and Electronics
- Electrical Equipment, Appliances, and Components
- Miscellaneous Manufacturing
If you want details about any of the industries, go to the Manufacturing Index. It will tell you more about the sector, including trends and prices in the industry. You'll also find statistics about the workforce itself, including fatalities, injuries, and illnesses.
A second resource is the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It provides a guide to the types of jobs that are in these industries. Here's a quick list:
- Assemblers and Fabricators
- Dental Laboratory Technicians
- Food Processing Operators
- Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers
- Machinists and Tool and Die Makers
- Medical Appliance Technicians
- Metal and Plastic Machine Workers
- Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians
- Painting and Coating Workers
- Power Plant Operators
- Quality Control Inspectors
- Stationary Engineers and Boiler Operators
- Water and Wastewater Treatment Operators
- Welders, Cutters, Solderers
The Bureau of Labor Statistics describes what these jobs are like, how much education or training is needed, and the salary levels. It also will tell you what it's like to work in the occupation and whether it's a growing field. You can also find what particular skills are used, whether specific certification is required, and how to get the training needed. This guide can be found at Production Occupations.
Trends in Manufacturing Jobs
Manufacturing processes are changing, and so are the job skills that are needed. Manufacturers are always searching for more cost-effective ways of producing their goods. That's why, even though the number of jobs is projected to decline, the jobs that remain are likely to be higher paid. But they will require education and training to acquire the skills needed.
That's for two reasons. First, the demand for manufactured products is growing from emerging markets like India and China. McKinsey & Company estimated that this could almost triple to $30 trillion by 2025. These countries would demand 70% of global manufactured goods.
How will this demand change manufacturing jobs? Companies will have to offer products specific to the needs of these very diverse markets. As a result, customer service jobs will become more important to manufacturers.
Second, manufacturers are adopting very sophisticated technology to both meet these specialized needs and to lower costs. Here are six examples:
- Nanotechnology is creating a new era of microelectronics.
- Lightweight steel, aluminum, and carbon fibers are making cars lighter and more fuel-efficient.
- Bio-engineering creates more customized pharmaceuticals.
- 3D printing creates prototypes by combining small particles rather than by casting or stamping, but it is being used more and more to manufacture specialized aerospace components and human organ replacements.
- Robots are becoming more sophisticated.
- Big data is being used to analyze customer trends and guide product development.