Where is the Best Place to Work in Manufacturing?
Ian Wright posted on December 06, 2017 | 2119 views

It’s been said that there are only three Big Questions you need to answer in life:

  1. What do you want to do for a living?
  2. Where do you want to live?
  3. Who do you want to live with?

These are difficult questions to answer, especially because they’re all interrelated. There are the immediate concerns, such as cost of living, but there are also long-term factors to consider, including job and income growth.

SmartAsset, a financial technology company, analyzed data from 483 metro areas in terms of six factors:

  • Manufacturing as a Percentage of the Workforce
  • Job Growth from 2010 to 2015
  • Job Growth from 2014 to 2015
  • Income Growth from 2010 to 2015
  • Income Growth from 2014 to 2015
  • Income After Housing

The data was collected from the Census Bureau’s 2010 and 2015 County Business Patterns Surveys and the Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey.

After ranking each metro area by each metric, SmartAsset’s analysis found each metro area’s average ranking by giving each metric an equal weighting. Each metro area received a score using this average ranking. The city with the best average ranking received a score of 100. The city with the worst average ranking received a score of 0.

Two key findings emerged from this analysis:

  1. Smaller Metro Areas Beat Big Cities: Average population in the top ten metro areas is roughly 300,000, but discounting Greenville, N.C. (6) and Ogden-Clearfield, Utah (3), drops the average population to 150,000.
  2. Job Prospects Vary Widely by Region: Manufacturing jobs are neither growing nor shrinking uniformly across the U.S. As an example, Rochester, Minn. has seen a 30 percent decrease in the number of manufacturing jobs from 2010 to 2015, while the jobs in Ogden-Clearfield grew by 55 percent in the same time period.

The Top 10 Best Places to Work in Manufacturing

(Image courtesy of SmartAsset.)
(Image courtesy of SmartAsset.)
The list of the ten best places to work in manufacturing includes some obvious entries, such as Talladega-Sylacauga, which has the fourth largest percentage of its workforce in manufacturing at 39 percent. Relatively low housing costs in this region mean that manufacturing workers earn an average income of $58,461 USD after taking these costs into account.

Rockford, Ill. is another unsurprising entry, given its history of manufacturing heavy machinery and tools. Despite the decline since its peak, one quarter of Rockford’s workforce is still employed in manufacturing, earning an average of $54,000 after housing costs.

A surprising—and arguably spurious—entry is Napa, Calif, which is primarily known for its wine industry. Of the 11,500 people considered to be employed in manufacturing in the analysis, 8,000 are employed by wineries. Though the average manufacturing worker earns $51,000 after housing costs, California also has some of the highest income taxes in the country.

(Image courtesy of SmartAsset.)
(Image courtesy of SmartAsset.)
Obviously, the analysis is not exhaustive. A breakdown by industry would no doubt reveal further patterns and trends in manufacturing. The majority of the Rust Belt is unsurprisingly absent, but so too is the West Coast electronics industry, along with states that have shown significant progress in recent years, such as Ohio, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Still, if “I want to work in manufacturing” is your answer to the first Big Question, this study could very well help you answer the second. I’m afraid I can’t offer any advice on the third.

Interested in regional differences in manufacturing?

Check out this Infographic on US Manufacturing Focus by State.

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