The data continues to pile up, yet the result is inconclusive. Judging by GDP, the broadest measure of an economy’s output, the U.S. economy has been growing since the middle of 2009. The PMI, a manufacturing-related gauge developed by the Institute for Supply Management, has been greater than 50, indicating expansion, for 11 months straight. Capacity utilization among steel producers has rebounded 25 percent since May 2009.
For all that, is it still too early for most companies to hang out the “Now Hiring” sign? Unemployment in the U.S. hit 10.1 percent in October; by June it had fallen just a bit, to 9.5 percent. The good news is that some manufacturers have been expanding, hiring workers, and announcing plans for future hiring.
This leads to more questions: Are the jobs that were lost being filled? Or is the economy changing? If so, how? Of course the job mix doesn’t change much in just a few months, but a recession can be enough to reveal some big-picture, long-term trends.
For example, the number of autoworkers in the U.S. held steady at around 250,000 from 1995 to 2002 or so, and then began falling; by early 2008, the U.S. had a mere 174,000 autoworkers. Now, in the middle of 2010, the losses have stopped and the number has stabilized at 115,000.
Detroit won’t recover overnight, but one Michigan-based aerospace company, W Industries, is making efforts to expand, hire unemployed-but-experienced manufacturing workers (former autoworkers, that is), and do its part to recast the Motor City’s labor market a bit.
You don’t have to look far to find other areas that have the potential to grow. The U.S. military is engaged in two conflicts, providing plenty of opportunity for defense contractors. Nearly everyone is looking for cleaner and greener technologies, so recycling and alternative energy are growing industries.
Other data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that, the current recession aside, people in the U.S. have been spending quite a bit of money on motor homes, travel trailers, and campers (employment increased about 50 percent from 1995 to 2006) and boats (employment increased 35 percent in that time).
“Now Hiring” signs are a welcome relief after a recession, but manufacturing firms also should bear in mind that “Now Changing” is a mindset necessary to keep up with a changing economy.
While being self-employed is a dream of many who are “working for the man,” doing so isn’t always as idyllic as many think. Here’s a dose of reality for those who are pining away for the greener pastures of being your own boss.
The FABRICATOR is North America's leading magazine for the metal forming and fabricating industry. The magazine delivers the news, technical articles, and case histories that enable fabricators to do their jobs more efficiently. The FABRICATOR has served the industry since 1971.