Manufacturing Jobs Surge in South and Southwest

Employment in the blue collar jobs industries of manufacturing, construction, and mining and logging grew by 47,000 in May. By industry, only 12 states saw a drop in manufacturing jobs. Of the states reporting seasonally adjusted data, 16 saw a decrease in the number of construction jobs and seven saw a drop in mining and logging jobs.

Though manufacturing added 18,000 jobs in May, this was the weakest increase since September of 2017. Mississippi, Tennessee, Missouri and Vermont saw manufacturing employment fall by 0.2 percent (300 jobs), 0.4 percent (1,300 jobs), 0.7 percent (1,200 jobs), and 1 percent (300 jobs) respectively. In Mississippi, manufacturing jobs were 12.4 percent of nonfarm employment in May; in Tennessee, 11.6 percent of nonfarm and 9.3 percent in Missouri and Vermont. Of these states, only Vermont is down over the year with a decrease of 3 percent since May of 2017. States that increased manufacturing employment include Arkansas (300 jobs, an increase of 2.2 percent), Washington DC (7.7 percent, 100 jobs), and Kentucky (1.1 percent, 2,700).

By region, the Southeast and Southwest both saw manufacturing employment increase by 0.3 percent last month (7,200 and 4,400 jobs respectively). Over the past year, the Southwest has experienced more manufacturing job growth in percent and absolute terms than any other region at 3.1 percent or 39,700 jobs. The bulk of this growth was in Texas (3.5 percent, 29,400 jobs) and Louisiana (2 percent, 2,700 jobs). The industrial belt saw slower manufacturing growth (1.3 percent, or 54,000 jobs) than the southwest and the national average (2.1 percent).

Several states saw increases in construction employment in May. The number of construction jobs grew by 1.5 percent (2,300 jobs) in Louisiana; 1.6 percent in Michigan (2,700 jobs); 3.1 percent (900 jobs) in Maine; 3.2 percent (600 jobs) in Rhode Island; and 8.7 percent (2,100 jobs) in North Dakota.

Construction jobs were 6 percent of total nonfarm employment in North Dakota in May. Moreover, the 26,200 construction jobs were well below the post-recession high of 37,200 in December of 2014, before the plunge in world oil prices. Compared with May of 2017, construction jobs in North Dakota have declined by 6.4 percent or 1,800 jobs.

New Jersey also continued a fall-off in construction employment; the 151,000 construction jobs in May were 3 percent lower than May of 2017. Compared with last year, a number of states have experienced significant growth in construction jobs. Georgia added 15,300 jobs, an increase of 8.4 percent, and Arizona gained 12,600 jobs, a jump of 8.8 percent. West Virginia had an 11.1 percent increase compared with last year. Most of these jobs were due to rising natural gas prices, which spurred a burst of oil and gas pipeline construction.

The mining and logging industry gained 4,000 jobs in May, an increase of 0.5 percent. The majority of these jobs were in support activities for mining. These jobs include contract and fee-based work, such as surveying and service unit operation. In absolute terms, Texas continues to employ more people in mining and logging than any other state. The 250,000 people (seasonally adjusted) employed in the industry in May were almost a third of the 733,000 employed nationwide. Coal mining in Wyoming has remained unchanged for the past year at 5,500 jobs since June of 2017. After reaching a low of 4,600 jobs in April of 2016, Pennsylvania coal mining jobs have held steady at 5,200 since January of this year. Kentucky lost 200 coal jobs since May of 2017 for a total of 5,800.

The state jobs reports were on the whole positive. Manufacturing, which saw significant job losses during the Great Recession has recovered a large share of jobs lost. However, many of these jobs have come from a surge in employment in the South and West rather than the former industrial belt of the Midwest.