Rust Belt Jobs Return — at Much Lower Pay

Wednesday, 18 May 2011 02:01 PM

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Manufacturers, including those in the Rust Belt, have added about 250,000 jobs since the beginning of last year. The new jobs mark the first sustained increase in manufacturing jobs since 1997, The Washington Post reported.

However, many of the new jobs will not come close to matching the pay of the jobs that disappeared in the recession or were shipped overseas. For example, a former Hoover vacuum plant in Ohio soon will be turning out EdenPure space heaters, vacuums, and air purifiers — giving workers a starting salary is $7.50 an hour. Most workers at Hoover, who saw their jobs shipped to Mexico, were making about $20 an hour, the Post reported. Suarez Corp. Industries now operates the former Hoover plant.

Manufacturing jobs, rust belt“The communities and workers in Ohio have been devastated over the past decade and are grateful for the opportunity to earn a living,” the AFL-CIO’s Robert Baugh told the Post. “But this is tempered by reality. One is that the jobs at Suarez, with wages and benefits well below the middle-class ones that were there before, are not a replacement for the ones that left.”

The return of jobs to the Rust Belt is a result of a revitalized auto industry, increased worker productivity, a weakened dollar that makes U.S. products more attractive overseas and lower labor costs. Manufacturing grew at about 9.1 percent in the first three months of the year, compared to the overall economy that expanded by just 1.8 percent, the Post reported.

“Everybody had written off the manufacturing sector and the Rust Belt, but now the manufacturing sector is the shining star of the U.S. recovery,” said Mark J. Perry, a professor at the University of Michigan at Flint, told the Post.

The manufacturing gains have occurred in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, where unemployment rates are falling, the Post reported. The nation lost nearly 6 million factory jobs between 2000 and 2009 and manufacturing jobs now total 11.7 million compared to 19.5 million in 1979.

More good news comes from a report by the Boston Consulting Group. The group predicted that the United States is on the verge of a “manufacturing renaissance” because of rising labor costs in China and the rising value of Chinese currency, the Post reported.

Nonetheless, the Economic Policy Institute’s Robert Scott noted that “what we are experiencing is first and foremost a recovery from the depths of a terrible recession. We have a long way to go before we climb out of this hole.”

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