Manufacturing's Declining Salary Numbers and Aging Workforce

Earlier this month, Industry Week released their 2009 Salary Survey of Manufacturing Managers in the March issue. It's an anonymous response survey of "nearly 1700 readers...revealing not only how much they earn and what challenges they face, but also key demographic data such as where they live, what they do, what industry verticals they work in, and perhaps most importantly, what's right and what's wrong with the current state of the industry". The piece includes 25 personal statements from managers "explaining in their own words what it means to toil in the U.S. manufacturing industry in 2009" along with their years on the job as well their current salaries -- most of whom have 26+ years in and earn between $60 and $206 thousand per year (most are in the high 5 and low 6 figures). Interestingly, "managerial salaries in the automotive sector ranked 16th out of 18". Perhaps yet another reason to change careers if you're in the market...or at least switch to a European or Japanese OEM or parts company?

Industry Week summarizes the general salary findings, noting "the average annual salary of manufacturing managers in the U.S. dropped by 9.7% over the past year, from $105,581 in 2008 to $95,248 in 2009". While the comparative sampling bias of an anonymous survey cannot justify this degree of statistical precision, the numbers at least tell the story of a large number of managers. "76% say they are 'very satisfied' or 'satisfied' with their current job and...80% are [similarly] satisfied about their choice of manufacturing as a career path...Clearly, both resiliency and pride are alive and well in the U.S. manufacturing industry."

But perhaps part of this pride comes from a long career in the industry and maybe a bit of shop floor reminiscing. Indeed, manufacturing management demographics are getting older. Industry Week notes that "In the past year, the percentage of managers 60 or older grew from 11% to 17%, while those in their 30s declined from 15% to 13%...40s dropped from 33% to 32% and those in their 20s remained level at 3%...For US manufacturing to have a bright future will require a future generation of decision-makers, but as of right now, it's unclear when that generation will arrive." In my view, the current recession is even more likely to spook young grads from considering manufacturing as a career. Though perhaps it's a good time to be contrarian and dive in. Just don't do it in Detroit!

Jason Busch

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