This report provides a detailed examination of Advanced Manufacturing in the Southeast region. This re-port is part of an eight-part series, each focusing on different areas of the Commonwealth. It examines recent employment and earnings trends; analyzes key occupations in Advanced Manufacturing’s subsectors, looking for common labor needs and comparing wages to similar workers in other industries; identifies the most common and critical skills needed by employers; and offers a detailed demographic profile of Advanced Manufacturing to highlight areas of critical concern for the future health of the industry.
With nearly 30,000 workers and over 1,000 businesses, the Southeast region’s Advanced Manufacturing sector is the third largest in the state. However, it represents only a modest share of the total regional economy. Unlike most other regions, Advanced Manufacturing in the Southeast is not dominated by any single subsector. The largest subsectors are Fabricated Metals and Equipment, Computers and Electronics and Food Processing. However, its primary regional specialization is in Medical Equipment and Supplies manufacturing, where the region’s employment share in this sector is more than three times the nation’s. Earnings in the Southeast also tend to lag most other regions in the Commonwealth. The major exception is the region’s Medical Equipment and Supplies subsector, where wages exceed both the state and the nation. But while not as high as found elsewhere, workers in the region’s Advanced Manufacturing sector still surpass those of most other jobs in the region.
Advanced Manufacturing in the Southeast experienced decades of consistent layoffs and business closures. Since 2001, Advanced Manufacturing lost a net 11,000 jobs—nearly a third its total jobs base. But the regional impact of these losses were blunted by the relative small size of the region’s Advanced Manufacturing sector. Nearly half of these layoffs were in the Computers and Electronics subsector—but only the Food Processing sector actually added net jobs over the past 11 years. And while job losses have abated following the 2008 recession, Advanced Manufacturing in the region has not kept pace with national trends of net job creation.
The aging of the Advanced Manufacturing workforce poses a major challenge to the region in the years ahead. More than 27% of today’s workforce will reach retirement age within the next ten years—a larger share than either the nation or the state. But with proper training and outreach, these retirements may create opportunities for young workers and others having a hard time finding a path to well-paying jobs in the modern economy. We also find considerable overlap in skill requirements across the varied Advanced Manufacturing subsectors in the region, suggesting ample opportunities for targeted training programs that meet the needs of a variety of employers.