Report finds Grand Rapids has largest share of manufacturing jobs in US

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Courtesy West Michigan Works!

A new report found Grand Rapids has the most manufacturing jobs per capita of any large metropolitan area in the U.S.

Smartest Dollar ranked Grand Rapids-Kentwood No. 1 on its ranking published last week, “Cities with the Most Manufacturing Jobs.

To find the metropolitan areas with the most manufacturing jobs, researchers at Smartest Dollar used employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The researchers ranked metro areas according to the share of workers employed in manufacturing. Researchers also looked at the percentage change in total manufacturing jobs since 1999 and the total number of manufacturing jobs in 2019 and 1999.

Only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 people were included in the analysis. Metro areas were grouped into three cohorts based on size: small metros, 100,000-349,999; midsize metros, 350,000-999,999; and large metros, 1 million or more.

Grand Rapids was found to have 21% of its overall jobs in the manufacturing sector, which was twice the national average, according to Smartest Dollar.

Manufacturing jobs in the metro area decreased 9% from 1999-2019 with 119,000 total manufacturing jobs in 2019 compared to 130,800 total manufacturing jobs in 1999, for a total of 11,800 jobs lost in the sector.

“Since its peak in 1979, manufacturing employment in the U.S. has been on the decline, accelerating sharply around the turn of the century,” wrote Anthony Manning in the Smartest Dollar report. “Despite modest gains since 2010, the number of manufacturing jobs remains far below previous levels. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, manufacturing accounted for more than 13% of the U.S. nonfarm workforce in 1999, or 17.3 million jobs. As of 2019, just 8.5% of workers were employed in the manufacturing sector, totaling less than 13 million jobs.

“Interestingly, at the same time that manufacturing jobs have moved overseas, manufacturing output — measured as the value of goods and services produced in the U.S. — has increased steadily. The BLS’s index of labor productivity for manufacturing is 2.5 times greater than it was in 1987 (the earliest year for which the data is available) due to advances in machinery, increased worker skill and improved industrial processes.”

Smartest Dollar noted the share of employment in manufacturing varies significantly across cities and states with some parts of the country depending much more on manufacturing work than others. The change in manufacturing jobs over the past two decades differs substantially on a geographic basis, and even states with the largest share of employment in manufacturing today have lost large numbers of manufacturing jobs. While Indiana and Wisconsin have 17.1% and 16.2% of their employment in manufacturing, respectively, they have each lost more than 100,000 manufacturing jobs since 1999.

Overall U.S. statistics

  • Share of employment in manufacturing: 8.5%
  • Change in total manufacturing jobs since 1999: -25.9% (4,482,000 total jobs lost)
  • Total manufacturing jobs 2019: 12,840,000
  • Total manufacturing jobs 1999: 17,322,000

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