COVID-19’s Impact on the Demand for Manufacturing and Production Workers in 2020

by Josh Bays, on May 20, 2020 12:07:49 PM

A similar report adjusted for the distribution and logistics  sector can be found here.

If you are anything like me, reading or writing the word “COVID” causes mental fatigue that seems to be exacerbated by the day. The entire world (but for the sake of this blog we’ll focus on the manufacturing industry), is feverishly assessing how this pandemic is affecting their business so they can react accordingly. And when an event such as this pandemic is everchanging, assessing its impact in real-time is difficult, which makes it nearly impossible to proactively implement long-term strategic initiatives with confidence.

While many manufacturers are pondering the merits of broad long-term strategic initiatives such as diversifying supply chains from Asia or implementing cost-cutting initiatives like consolidation strategies, there are a select few companies that are currently navigating site selection projects. These locationally active companies (and their consultants) are being forced to re-evaluate the process for assessing labor markets, and more specifically, determining how COVID-19 is impacting and will impact the availability of a qualified workforce. 

Assessing labor market trends in the ‘New Normal’

The long-term prognosis for any labor market is going to be heavily influenced by the industry composition of that specific community. Site Selection Group published a blog on this very topic last month. Although the latest cutting-edge data and analytical models can be used to peek into the crystal ball to make comparisons, many conclusions drawn today about the future are merely conjecture.

Assessing labor markets in the short term is proving to be challenging as most workforce data lags too long in this dynamic environment to accurately capture reality (e.g. unemployment data). While any workforce analysis should include a heavy dose of organic research such as interviews of existing employers, education institutions and workforce development partners, Site Selection Group leverages job posting data that can be informative in understanding competitive pressures in a market almost real time.

Job posting data for production occupations

Job posting data, one of the few almost real-time labor market data sources, is simply the volume of job openings being advertised by existing employers. This data can be categorized by time period, geography and occupation. Although there are a variety of relative measures that can be used with job posting data (i.e. posting intensity, unique postings, etc.), it is interesting to see how overall job postings has changed for production occupations over the last three months. The following map represents all metro areas with a population over 1 million shaded by percent change in unique job postings for production occupations over the last 90 days. As one can see, the vast majority of metro areas have seen a significant decrease in job postings activity since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Manufacturing and Production Job Posting Change in Last 90 Days


Top 10, bottom 10 metro areas for change in production job postings

The following table shows the 10 metro areas with a population greater than 1 million that had the least severe drop in unique job postings for production occupations over the last 90 days (in fact, five metro areas actually saw an uptick). It appears that metro areas with more high-tech and food production have been less impacted in the short-term.

Top 10 Metro Areas with Least Change in Job Postings in Last 90 Days

Metro Area State % Change in Unique Postings
Austin TX +9.1%
Fresno CA +4.4%
Richmond VA +3.2%
Providence-Warwick RI-MA +3.1%
Denver-Aurora-Lakewood CO +2.6%
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara CA -1.1%
Raleigh-Cary NC -1.3%
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News VA-NC -1.4%
Rochester NY -2.3%
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater FL -2.5%

 On the other hand, the following table shows those metro areas that saw the most drastic drop in unique job postings for production occupations over the last 90 days. Although there are a couple of outliers, these markets are largely tied to the energy, automotive or logistics sectors. 

Top 10 Metro Areas with Greatest Change in Job Opening in Last 90 Days

Metro Area State % Change in Unique Postings
Tulsa OK -23.9%
Pittsburgh PA -19.9%
Oklahoma City OK -19.1%
Milwaukee-Waukesha WI -18.4%
Louisville KY-IN -17.2%
Salt Lake City UT -16.7%
Jacksonville FL -15.1%
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue WA -15.0%
Las Vegas-Henderson NV -14.8%
Memphis TN-MS-AR -14.5%
Topics:ManufacturingSite SelectionLocation AdvisoryCOVID-19



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