Top Locations for Manufacturing Labor

Josh Bays

Josh Bays | June 23, 2016

The ability to hire and retain a workforce with production experience remains the top priority for companies seeking to locate new manufacturing operations. However, the unemployment rate for the manufacturing industry is historically low at 4.7%, and despite the manufacturing industry employing 12.2 million people nationally, the competition for workers is as fierce as ever. Therefore, most companies are relegated to hiring from the ranks of the underemployed when they seek critical skills such as basic operators, machinists and maintenance mechanics. 

Site Selection Group, a full-service location advisory and economic incentivesfirm, routinely assesses the quantity and concentration of target skill sets while evaluating market wage structures. Those markets that are best positioned to satisfy the entrance of new manufacturing plants are those that have a good existing manufacturing base, a pipeline of talent via a technical or vocational school, and low to moderate wage pressures.

Largest manufacturing labor pools
Site Selection Group provides a full suite of workforce analytics for its manufacturing clients and tracks the latest occupation statistics. Using national industrial employment statistics, Site Selection Group identified the top 10 metro areas with the largest manufacturing labor pools.

Top 10 locations by manufacturing employment

Location Total Manufacturing Employment % of Labor Force
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 498,890 7.16%
Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI 392,784 7.68%
New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 353,131 3.34%
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 242,411 6.44%
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 237,447 6.95%
Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI 234,976 10.93%
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 193,343 9.61%
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 185,258 9.08%
Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH 177,160 6.51%
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 168,878 5.29%

As suspected, the largest metro areas rise to the top. However, these areas do not have the greatest concentration of manufacturing labor. When looking at labor density, the top 10 metro areas based on the concentration of workforce employed in the manufacturing sector looks quite different.

Top 10 locations by manufacturing concentration

Location

Total
Manufacturing
Employment

% of Labor
Force
Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC 36,524 21.07%
Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI 107,802 19.79%
Appleton, WI 23,334 17.86%
Rockford, IL 28,266 16.17%
Green Bay, WI 27,661 15.99%
Spartanburg, SC 24,525 15.63%
Fort Wayne, IN 32,918 14.92%
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 157,291 14.83%
Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA 20,105 14.07%
Evansville, IN-KY 21,616 13.60%

 While the overall employment in manufacturing is lower than the largest metro areas in the country, this list represents those markets that are more dependent on the sector.

 Labor availability by manufacturing sector
Given the unique processes and skill sets employed by various industries in the manufacturing sector, many companies like to cluster in markets with similar operations. In the table below, Site Selection Group identifies the top locations by total employment and concentration for 21 broad industries within manufacturing.

Top locations by total employment &
concentration by manufacturing sector

Industry Top Location -
Total
Top Location -
Concentration
Food Manufacturing New York, NY - 48,289 Dodge City, KS - 31.04%
Beverage & Tobacco Mfg. Napa, CA - 8,197 Napa, CA - 10.59%
Textile Mills Los Angeles, CA - 6,464 Summerville, GA - 11.71%
Textile Product Mills Dalton, GA - 13,675 Dalton, GA - 19.66%
Apparel Los Angeles, CA - 48,017 Dayton, TN - 3.42%
Leather Goods & Footwear Los Angeles, CA - 2,011 Del Rio, TX - 5.25%
Wood Products Dallas, TX - 5,492 Elkins, WV - 7.73%
Paper Products Chicago, IL - 15,685 Hutchinson, MN - 7.35%
Printing Los Angeles - 21,928 Crawfordsville, IN - 5.21%
Petroleum Houston, TX - 8,309 McPherson, KS - 4.30%
Chemicals New York, NY - 57,225 Marion, NC - 17.88%
Plastics & Rubber Products Chicago, IL - 28,874 Mount Vernon, IL - 17.91%
Nonmetallic Mineral Products Dallas, TX - 12,136 Owatonna, MN - 7.30%
Primary Metal Chicago, IL - 26,422 Blytheville, AR - 6.05%
Fabricated Metal Los Angeles, CA - 63,751 Auburn, IN - 15.37%
Machinery Houston, TX - 56,014 Columbus, IN - 23.88%
Computer & Electronic Products San Jose, CA - 108,007 San Jose, CA - 10.18%
Electrical Equip. & Appliances Chicago, IL - 18,463 Fremont, OH - 10.94%
Transportation Equip. Detroit, MI - 102,205 Greensburg, IN - 28.66%
Furniture Los Angeles, CA - 18,000 Jasper, IN - 25.00%
Miscellaneous Los Angeles, CA - 45,835 Warsaw, IN - 18.67%

 

 


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