Job Openings Reach All-Time Highs: Good News for Manufacturing?

The most recent Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows an alarming post-pandemic trend. Despite an unemployment rate still heightened due to the pandemic, the economy continues to add jobs. The gap between available positions and available workforce is growing, indicating that many people aren’t so keen to get back into the labor pool.

Low wages and income inequality top the list of concerns. It’s a trend that could push more workers into manufacturing, where wages remain strong and opportunities plentiful. Could the post-COVID-19 job market be a catalyst that bridges the manufacturing employment gap?

Job openings continue to rise

The United States saw a major surplus of job openings in March 2021. There were around 8.1 million open positions in March, which is the highest job availability rate America has had in more than 20 years. Despite this, hiring has only risen 4% in 2021, and unemployment is currently around 6.1%. Across the country, businesses of all sizes are having trouble filling open positions.

Qualified unemployed individuals are reluctant to seek positions for several reasons. For many, life still hasn’t returned to normal — child care, for example, remains a top obstacle. For others, salary is an issue. Even more individuals are stuck in limbo, waiting for their old position to become available again. Whatever the case, the workforce is out there. But companies face an uphill battle in attracting workers to new positions as the economy continues to ramp back up.

Manufacturing stands poised to win

As mid-level white-collar positions suffer from wage stagnation and entry-level positions fall outside the realm of prospects for many qualified workers, manufacturing stands to capitalize.

Unlike in other industries, manufacturing salaries weren’t as affected by the pandemic — and demand remains exceedingly high. The reason? The manufacturing skills gap. Even before the pandemic, manufacturing’s demand for talent was high. Now, job seekers are beginning to look at manufacturing for the promise of a stable career with plenty of room for growth.

By 2030, over 2 million jobs will remain open if manufacturing companies don’t start finding qualified workers now. To capitalize on the available labor pool now, some manufacturers are taking measures to find qualified candidates for their available positions. Recent tactics have included offering free skill development and training opportunities as well as recruiting from peripheral sectors. Community engagement has also helped many manufacturers find qualified employees through programs such as paid internships and externships for soon-to-be grads.

Paving the way for reshoring

Manufacturing has another incentive to attract workers now: the prospect of reshoring. Supply chains continue to suffer, putting domestic manufacturers in a squeeze between high demand and lack of supply. A strong at-home workforce could be exactly what is needed to reign in control of unstable supply chains.

Bringing more manufacturing options back to U.S. soil will create more jobs and shorten supply chains. Reshoring will also cut delivery times for essential supplies — a struggle the United States experienced during the pandemic and continues to suffer from even as it winds down.

Creating jobs people want

Manufacturing jobs are becoming increasingly desirable at a time when there’s a surplus of available, unemployed talent out there. People want rewarding jobs at companies that pay well and treat them right. At the same time, manufacturing continues to be a tech- and labor-driven industry that embraces many different skill sets. It’s a perfect fit for many who want opportunities for growth — employers and employees alike.

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