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Southern states won the most auto manufacturing jobs

Data: BLS, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages; Get the data; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Chris Canipe/Axios

Michigan has lost the most auto manufacturing jobs over the past 18 years, while auto manufacturing in southern states has flourished, according to an Axios analysis of federal jobs data.

The bottom line: Michigan had the most jobs to lose, and automakers are increasingly attracted to states where workers are less unionized and wages are lower.

Automakers "don't want to compete for workers" and want to be the employer of choice for manufacturing jobs, the Center for Automotive Research's Kristin Dziczek told Axios. And they don't have to compete as much in southern states, where their nearest rival might be hundreds of miles away.

  • Toyota and Volvo this year announced plans to open new plants in Alabama and South Carolina, respectively.
  • General Motors said last month it would halt production at four U.S. plants, putting over 3,000 jobs at risk.
Data: BLS, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon, Chris Canipe/Axios

By the numbers: Since the auto industry's most recent labor peak in the early 2000s — the only time frame for which complete state data was available — 15 states saw auto manufacturing job growth. Six of them were in the south.

  • Alabama added the most auto manufacturing jobs.
  • Honda, Kia, Mercedes Benz, Toyota and other foreign auto part suppliers have plants in Alabama. But some of those plants have low pay and extremely dangerous working conditions in the factories, as Bloomberg reported last year.

Yes, but: The South is not the only region where foreign automakers operate.

  • One example is Honda, which opened a plant in Alabama in 2001 but has operated factories in Ohio since the 1980s. Currently, Honda has 3 Ohio factories that employ around 7,000 people, per Honda's most recent annual report — making up 6% of all auto manufacturing jobs in the state.

What's next: One automaker is going against the trend. Fiat Chrysler said it plans to open a new factory in Detroit, the first new U.S. plant by a domestic carmaker in a decade, which could add at least 1,800 jobs in Michigan.

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