GSU report predicts drop in Ga. manufacturing jobs, regardless of federal, state policies

By David Pendered

A new report from Georgia State University predicts a steep drop in manufacturing jobs in Georgia through 2035. Federal and state policies are not likely to reverse this economic force.

Smoothing porcelain

A new report from Georgia State University predicts that Georgia will continue to lose manufacturing jobs as workers are replaced by machines, as could be the case at the Toto USA plant in Atlanta. File/Credit: Donita Pendered

The report lays out three scenarios in which Georgia could lose from 36 percent to 67 percent of its manufacturing jobs by 2035. The assumptions are made of historic trends of job losses in Georgia’s manufacturing sector.

The author of Employment and Wage Trends in Manufacturing is David Sjoquist, a specialist in public finance at GSU’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies.

Sjoquist said the jobs to be lost aren’t the well paid ones filled by skilled workers who can operate robots or precision machines within federal safety regulations.

These are newer jobs and employers pay well for workers who can do them.

“They’re the workers who have gotten a lot of training skills and there are fewer of those jobs – the engineer who works in manufacturing,” Sjoquist said. “Those are not the ones that we’ll be losing. Georgia will lose the jobs that robots are replacing.”

The report concludes with eight topics the report says Georgia leaders should consider.

Bio pharm manufacturing

Highly skilled manufacturing jobs, such as Baxalta’s plasma plant in Covington, are not expected to be threatened by declines elsewhere in the manufacturing sector. Credit: biopharma-reporter.com

The first recommendation is at the heart of the economic debate in the presidential campaign. It raises the issue of trade deals and their impact on the U.S. manufacturing sector:

  • “The economic forces driving the change in manufacturing employment are very substantial, and neither the United States nor Georgia is likely to be able to reverse them. But, Georgia might be able to modify the magnitude of the effect of these forces on manufacturing in Georgia. “

The last recommendation adds fresh context to a 2014 report to Gov. Nathan Deal on Georgia jobs. The last recommendation in the Sjoquist report states:

  • “Given the trends in manufacturing employment, Georgia should consider how much emphasis to place on manufacturing jobs. Would Georgia be better off focusing on other industrial sectors that pay higher than average wages?”
Textile loom manufacturing

Jobs in Georgia’s textile mills collapsed as machines were installed in the 1970s. Credit: georgiaencyclopedia.org

The Governor’s High Demand Career Initiative Report, issued December 2014, cited a shortage of skills in demand for all types of jobs. Industry leaders reported trouble finding workers who were reasonably well educated, could communicate and solve problems.

The manufacturing sector was one that stood out for a workforce shortage:

  • “ Employers expressed interest in talent from Georgia for their openings but stated they are forced to recruit from out-of-state. This was expressed across many of the industries, but it was especially prevalent in the industries that require skilled workers, such as manufacturing and entertainment (television & film production).”
catterpillar manufacturing

Catterpillar opened a manufacturing plant near Athens and moved operations there from a plant in Japan, which was retooled to manufacture high-tech parts destined for Asia. Credit: onlineathens.com

The Sjoquist report did contain one glimmer of hope. This was in the section that forecast job loss based on historic trends.

This assumption presumed that manufacturing employment will increase as it did during from 2010 to 2014, as jobs were added after the recession. That trend line is presumed to continue until the number of jobs equals the number in 2007. At this point, the mildest of historic declines is factored in.

Then the rose-colored glasses come off:

  • “The result of this calculation is that in 2035, Georgia would have 300,012 manufacturing jobs, a decrease of 23 percent over 2014 employment.
  • “Regardless of the assumption we make, the expectation is that Georgia will experience a substantial decrease in manufacturing employment by 2035.”

 

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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