The 10 best jobs in manufacturing

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Manufacturing workers
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This story originally appeared on SmartAsset.com.

Manufacturing has a special place in American history, but over the past few decades this sector has been largely in decline, affecting many workers and influencing decisions related to budgeting and where their home is.

According to a 2020 study by the Economic Policy Center, more than 91,000 manufacturing plants have closed and nearly 5 million manufacturing jobs have been lost since 1997.

Still, in the manufacturing world in the US there are jobs and careers to be found provided you look in the right places. To this end, SmartAsset analyzed various data to find the best jobs in manufacturing in 2020.

To find the best jobs in manufacturing, we compared 378 metropolitan areas using the following metrics: production as a percentage of workforce, employment and income growth between 2015 and 2018, employment and income growth between 2017 and 2018, housing costs as a percentage of income and Unemployment.

This is the fifth study by SmartAsset on the best workplaces in manufacturing. Read the previous version here.

For details on our data sources and how we gather all of the information to create our final rankings, see the Data and Methodology section below.

Below are the best places to work in manufacturing.

1. St. Joseph, MO-KS

St. Joseph, Missouri
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The St. Joseph metropolitan area, which is both Missouri and Kansas, has 24.74% of its workforce in manufacturing. This is the 18th highest rate in this study.

It’s also a place where finding jobs is pretty easy: the unemployment rate was just 3.1% in October 2020, making it the 16th lowest of all 378 areas examined.

In terms of income growth between 2015 and 2018, St. Joseph ranks lower – although still in the top half of the study – and ranks 145th for this metric at 7.61%.

2. Lafayette-West Lafayette, IN

Lafayette Indiana
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In the Lafayette-West Lafayette, Indiana metropolitan area, where Purdue University is located, approximately 25.23% of the workforce is made up of manufacturing workers. This is the 16th highest rate for this metric in the study.

Income growth between 2017 and 2018 was particularly high here at 16.64%. This is the seventh highest of the 378 metropolitan areas we analyzed.

This appears to be a recent development, however, as income growth was not as robust at 8.73% between 2015 and 2018 and was in the top third of the study at 126.

3. Hinesville, GA

Hinesville, Georgia
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In Hinesville, Georgia, manufacturing employment growth rose 27.50% between 2017 and 2018. This is the third highest increase for this metric in the study.

In terms of employment growth, it ranked 38th between 2015 and 2018 with a total of 14.50%.

This metropolitan area employs 17.81% of the workforce in manufacturing, placing this coastal community 59th in the study for this metric, a top-quartile finish.

4. Decatur, IL

Decatur, Illinois
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In Decatur, Illinois, in central Lincoln, manufacturing income rose 33.08% between 2015 and 2018. This is the fourth highest increase in the study for this metric.

The year-long increase in manufacturing income between 2017 and 2018 was 12.88%, making it the 10th highest increase in the study.

Decatur is also a fairly affordable place to live, with housing costs averaging just 10.81% of income. This is the fifth lowest rate for this metric in any of the 378 metropolitan areas in the study.

5. Spartanburg, SC

Spartanburg, South Carolina
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In Spartanburg, South Carolina, manufacturing jobs make up 25.05% of the total workforce. This is the 17th highest percentage for this metric overall.

Spartanburg is also in the top 20 for both employment growth metrics: it ranks 15th for employment growth between 2017 and 2018 (11.45%) and 18th for employment growth between 2015 and 2018 (18.98%) .

6. Fond du Lac, WI

Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
Kristopher Kettner / Shutterstock.com

In Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, 20.98% of the workforce is employed in manufacturing. This is the 30th highest percentage we’ve seen in the study for this metric.

The unemployment rate in Fond du Lac was 3.7% in October 2020, the 32nd lowest on this list.

The Fond du Lac metro area is in the middle of the study in terms of housing costs as a percentage of income, ranking 155th with 19.29%.

7. Columbus, IN

Columbus, Indiana
James Kirkikis / Shutterstock.com

Manufacturing workers make up 27.78% of the workforce in the greater Columbus, Indiana area. This is the 10th highest rate for this metric in the study.

From 2017 to 2018, the number of employees in the manufacturing sector grew by only 1.67% and thus occupied 177th place out of a total of 378.

The metro area is also in the middle of the study in terms of housing costs as a percentage of income, ranking 160th, with housing costs averaging 19.37% of income.

8. Rome, GA

Rome, Georgia
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Between 2017 and 2018, manufacturing workers income in the greater Rome, Georgia area declined 0.09%, placing the locale in the bottom quarter of the study for this metric.

However, the labor market there is currently quite strong: The unemployment rate was only 3.7% in October 2020, which is the 32nd lowest level overall.

The metropolitan area of ​​Rome is also a fairly resilient city for manufacturing employment opportunities. 17.98% of jobs are in manufacturing. This is the 57th highest rate we analyzed for this metric, and it is in the upper quartile.

9. Appleton, WI

Appleton, Wisconsin History Museum
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The workforce in the Appleton, Wisconsin metropolitan area is 20.08% of those employed in manufacturing. This is the 37th highest rate of the 378 regions examined.

Long-term income growth is also of great concern. Between 2015 and 2018, wages for manufacturing jobs rose 16.33%. This is the 34th largest jump that we have analyzed.

Appleton’s employment growth over the same period is strong but not quite as robust, ranking 102nd overall at 8.63%.

10. Staunton-Waynesboro, VA

Staunton, Virginia
Jack Looney Photography / Shutterstock.com

The last entry on this list is the Staunton-Waynesboro, Virginia metropolitan area. In the metropolitan area, manufacturing jobs declined 0.32% between 2017 and 2018, ranking 256th overall for this metric.

However, it does well in terms of income growth between 2017 and 2018, for which it ranks 23rd out of 378 at 9.97%.

The Staunton metropolitan area is also well suited for employment growth between 2015 and 2018. With an increase of 15.26%, it ranks 34th in the study for this metric.

Data and methodology

Man analyzing data on a laptop
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To find the best jobs in manufacturing, we compared 378 metropolitan areas using the following key figures:

  • Production as a percentage of the workforce. This is the percentage of all workers employed in manufacturing companies.
  • Three-year job growth. This is the percentage change in the number of employees in manufacturing companies from 2015 to 2018.
  • Annual employment growth. This is the percentage change in the number of employees in manufacturing companies from 2017 to 2018.
  • Three year income growth. This is the percentage change in the average income of those employed in the manufacturing sector from 2015 to 2018.
  • Annual income growth. This is the percentage change in the average income of those employed in the manufacturing sector from 2017 to 2018.
  • Housing costs as a percentage of the average income of workers in manufacturing. The data on the mean housing costs come from the 1-year survey of the US community of the US Census Bureau from the year 2019.
  • Unemployment rate. Figures are from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and refer to October 2020. This rate includes all occupations, not just manufacturing-specific.

Data is from the Census Bureau’s 2015-2018 County Business Patterns Survey, unless otherwise noted.

First, we ranked each subway area in each metric. From there, we determined the average ranking for each subway area, with all key figures with the exception of production as a percentage of the workforce, which we weighted twice, were weighted equally.

We then ranked the areas based on this average ranking. The subway area with the best average ranking received an index rating of 100 and the subway area with the worst average ranking received an index rating of 0.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, sometimes we get compensation for clicking links in our stories.

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