The ‘80s futurist John Naisbitt once called manufacturing a “a declining sport,” and to be sure the share of Americans working in factories has fallen far from the 1950 peak of 30% to roughly 8.5% last year. Yet, manufacturing’s contributions to the economy are far out of proportion to its shrinking share of employment. In 2013, the manufacturing sector employed 12 million workers, but generated an additional 17.1 million indirect jobs. It has the largest multiplier of any economic sector: each dollar’s worth of manufactured goods generates $1.40 in output from other sectors of the economy. Perhaps most important may be the higher wages it provides for blue-collar workers. According to the latest BLS data, goods-producing industries pays $56,799 a year on average during the latest period in our rankings—much higher than other working-class fields like health care and education (averaging $45,676 annually) and leisure and hospitality ($20,879).
To determine the places where manufacturing growth is the strongest, we looked at employment in the sector in 373 metropolitan statistical areas, assessing short-, medium- and long-term trends going back to 2006 and adding in variables for persistence and momentum. The results of these trends, based on three-month averages, are normalized and each MSA is assigned a score based on its relative position in each area. (For a more detailed description of the methodology, click here.)
Over the past eight years manufacturing has bounced back strongly from the crater the sector fell in during the Great Recession, gaining 1.1 million jobs. In recent months, 17 of the 18 major industries have been in growth mode, according to the Institute for Supply Management. Manufacturers expect to add nearly 2% more jobs nationally during calendar 2018 and the Institute’s Purchasing Manager’s Index has shown 20 months of continuous growth through April 2018.
A broad array of places across the U.S. are benefiting, ranging from the industrial Midwest to the Sun Belt to even California, a state that has long been bleeding industrial jobs but is lately showing some signs of resurgence. Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley ranks second on our list of the large metropolitan areas that have added the most industrial jobs over the past decade — its factory job count has jumped 22% since 2012, as the red-hot tech sector has fueled a manufacturing surge in the Bay Area. Meanwhile the San Diego-Carlsbad area ranks 10th.
In first place? The vast majority of Americans are more likely to associate the Orlando metro area with Mickey Mouse than Rosie the Riveter, but Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford is tops in manufacturing job growth among the 71 largest metros (those with more than 450,000 nonfarm jobs), racking up 23.6% growth since 2012 and 7.9% last year. Large companies including Lockheed Martin, Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Americas and Siemens Energy have brought advanced manufacturing jobs to the Orlando area, as well as a host of smaller firms.