Nov 14, 2018

A new warning about the manufacturing labor shortage

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Manufacturing in the U.S. faces a labor shortage at a scale not seen in decades, as the country's economy expands and aging workers retire — only half of whom will be replaced by new ones.

Why it matters: For the U.S. to stay competitive, experts say it must take a page from the Chinese playbook. As we’ve reported, China is investing billions in factory robots as wages rise and labor becomes more expensive.

By the numbers: A study released Wednesday by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute paints a dire picture of the manufacturing labor shortage.

  • In the next 10 years, they expect 4.6 million new manufacturing jobs to be created, 2.4 million of which will remain unfilled because of a skills shortage.
  • Nearly half of those openings will result from retirement, as baby boomers leave the workforce en masse.
  • Over the course of the decade, this shortage could cost the U.S. economy $2.5 trillion.

Companies are making short-term changes, like offering higher salaries and relaxing hiring requirements, to attract skilled workers, the study found.

  • Perks like remote work could lure new workers — like women and college graduates — who typically shy away from manufacturing jobs, said Paul Wellener, who leads the U.S. industrial products and construction practice at Deloitte.
  • The study also calls for companies to implement training programs and hire gig economy workers to help make up the shortage.

The bottom line: In the long term, automation will help close the gap — but it will take immediate investment in robotics to get there, according to a recent report on manufacturing competitiveness from Boston Consulting Group and Carnegie Mellon University.

  • "The US urgently needs a more aggressive approach to developing and adopting robotic technologies for manufacturing," the report’s authors wrote.
  • Robots will help counteract several forces threatening to hold back manufacturing in the U.S.: the labor shortage, decreasing productivity, rising barriers to trade and China's swift robotization.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5:30 p.m. ET: 5,375,648 — Total deaths: 343,721 — Total recoveries — 2,149,412Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 5:30 p.m. ET: 1,639,872 — Total deaths: 97,599 — Total recoveries: 361,239 — Total tested: 13,784,786Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 53 mins ago - Politics & Policy

White House announces new coronavirus travel restrictions on Brazil

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro with Trump, March 19, 2019. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool via Getty Images

The White House announced that beginning at 11:59 pm ET on Thursday, President Trump would suspend entry of non-U.S. citizens who have been in Brazil in the past 14 days in an effort to stop the imported spread of the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Brazil has reported nearly 350,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus — the second-most in the world behind the U.S. — and has emerged as a Southern Hemisphere hotspot as other heavily affected countries in Asia and Europe have managed to get their outbreaks under control.

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Mandel Ngan/AFP

Trump's advisers relish the contrast between his public appearances and Joe Biden's lack thereof. The former vice president, following the guidance of public experts, has eschewed public events and stayed home for months now. Trump, meanwhile, is out and about — masks be damned.

What we're hearing: Watch for plenty more mask-free outings from Trump, hyping the reopening of the economy and avoiding discussions of social distancing and death counts.