Manufacturers Enjoy 5 Straight Quarters Of Growth

As the economy recovers, so is American manufacturing. Recent reports show increases in manufacturing orders and shipments. But that isn't translating into large numbers of new factory jobs.

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Freight traffic is increasing because manufacturing has been increasing. It's one of the bright spots in the economy right now. Despite high unemployment, American manufacturers have seen five straight quarters of growth.

NPR's Andrea Hsu looks at whether this will translate into more jobs.

ANDREA HSU: Lakshman Achuthan of the Economic Cycle Research Institute says what's happening in manufacturing is characteristic of a real recovery.

Mr. LAKSHMAN ACHUTHAN (Economic Cycle Research Institute): Basically, the upturn is happening across the board: household appliances, cars, consumer electronics.

HUS: Still, he says, don't expect to see millions of new manufacturing jobs.

Mr. ACHUTHAN: We do have a very strong manufacturing base, partly because it's very high tech and it's extremely productive.

HSU: But because they're so productive, they can operate with fewer workers.

Mr. ACHUTHAN: Those people who have a job, you know, they're working really hard. They're probably working more than whatever, quote, "full-time," unquote, means.

HSU: The less-than-rosy outlook for factory jobs has Jacob Johnson rethinking his operation. He runs the Manufacturing Training Alliance, a non-profit in St. Louis. He recently scaled back the machining classes, but added two classes in heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

Mr. JACOB JOHNSON (President, Manufacturing Training Alliance): Those folks who were laid off from manufacturing, we're training them how to go into a house and make it energy efficient.

HSU: Stimulus money has helped create jobs there. And to mark the shift in focus, the Manufacturing Training Alliance will be renamed the Metropolitan Training Alliance on July 1st.

Andrea Hsu, NPR News.

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