Machinery Industry Job Outlook
supplemental resource: Job Outlook by Profession
Employment in machinery manufacturing is expected to continue its long-term decline as productivity increases allow companies to produce more goods with fewer workers.
Wage and salary employment in the machinery manufacturing industry is expected to decrease 8 percent over the 2008-18 period compared with an 11 percent increase for all industries combined.
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The main factor affecting the level of employment in the machinery manufacturing industry is the high rate of productivity growth. Increases in productivity allow companies to produce more goods with the same number of workers. Even though output in machinery manufacturing is expected to increase significantly, firms will be able to meet the increase through higher productivity of existing workers, rather than by creating new jobs. Import competition is not as big of a factor in machinery manufacturing as in other sectors of the manufacturing industry. Machines must be made precisely, requiring highly skilled employees; as a result, most production will continue to be located domestically.
In contrast to the projected declines in employment, demand for machinery is expected to remain strong. Machinery is important for all industries because it boosts productivity, and advances in technology will make machinery even more efficient and thus more desirable. Demand for machinery is highly sensitive to cyclical swings in the economy, however, causing employment in machinery manufacturing to fluctuate. During periods of economic prosperity, companies invest in new equipment in order to boost production. When economic growth slows, however, many companies are reluctant to purchase new machinery. These changes in demand cause machinery manufacturers to replace fewer workers who leave or even lay off some workers.
Although overall employment in the machinery manufacturing industry is expected to decline, the outlook for occupations will vary; some will experience larger declines than others, while some will even experience growth instead. Increased automation and more efficient production processes will cause employment declines in assembler and fabricator occupations. Office and administrative support workers will also experience declines as a result of increased automation and contracting out. Employment in professional occupations will experience smaller declines relative to other occupations in the industry, as these workers are responsible for increasing innovation and competitiveness in the industry.
Job prospects. Despite the decline in employment projected for this sizeable industry, a significant number of job openings will become available because of the need to replace workers who retire or move to jobs outside of the industry. Machinery manufacturing establishments will continually be seeking to hire more highly skilled workers, especially persons with good basic educational skills that make good candidates to be trained for the high skilled jobs of twenty-first century manufacturing. Workers with these skills are expected to experience good job prospects.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Career Guide to Industries, 2010-11 Edition
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