State hemorrhages factory jobs
One of every 4 manufacturing positions in 2000 is gone by 2005
(November 27, 2006) — The number of manufacturing jobs in New York fell by 26 percent during the first half of the decade, a new census report shows.
Almost every major category of goods-producing employment contributed to the loss of 191,000 jobs between 2000 and 2005. Apparel manufacturing was the hardest hit.
Furniture making was the sole exception to the decline among industries employing at least 20,000 people. It added about 1,300 jobs during the five-year period.
New York fared worse than the nation as a whole, but not by much. Overall U.S. manufacturing employment dropped 21 percent, or about 3.5 million jobs, to a 2005 level of 13.2 million.
"A lot of what happens in New York follows national trends," said Kevin Jack, principal economist at the state Labor Department in Albany.
Despite the decline, manufacturing remains an important part of the New York economy — and nowhere more than in the Rochester/Finger Lakes region.
Separate data from the state Labor Department show that manufacturing accounts for 16 percent of the jobs in the nine-county area, the highest of any region in the state.
"Manufacturing just dominates our local economy," said Tammy Marino, associate economist for the Labor Department in Rochester.
The region was mostly affected by the loss of manufacturing jobs in the chemicals category, which covers many of the cutbacks at Eastman Kodak Co. Chemical manufacturing positions in the state fell to about 53,000 last year from 65,000 in 2000.
Marino noted that Kodak, Xerox Corp., Bausch & Lomb Inc. and others still employ substantial numbers of workers at manufacturing facilities in our region.
While the major employers, especially Kodak, have had their share of cutbacks, "just recently the pace of manufacturing layoffs has slowed," she said.
Some companies in the area are hiring, Marino noted, and defense manufacturers such as Harris Corp.'s RF Communications division in Rochester have fared well recently.
The types of manufacturing jobs have changed, said Matt Hurlbutt, managing director of the Finger Lakes Partnership and director of RochesterWorks, a nonprofit agency that connects businesses with job seekers.
"It's gone from assembly-line work to computer-, technology-based work," Hurlbutt said. "Some low-skill, high-wage positions have been lost, but there are still jobs in manufacturing."
Smaller businesses without the recruiting budgets of large companies are hiring, but job seekers may not know about the positions or even about the smaller companies, he said.
The optics field is always looking for workers and many of those positions pay from $10 to $22 an hour, Hurlbutt said. Such jobs usually require an associate's degree, with Monroe Community College offering many courses in optics and engineering.
Gone are the days when few skills were needed for manufacturing jobs, Hurlbutt said, noting that many positions in the field have evolved into skilled labor, requiring math and science skills.
"You need to own your career and manage it," he said.