U.S. Automakers' Fortunes Revving Up

Sharply higher employment in the auto manufacturing and auto parts manufacturing sectors to meet rising demand will support tens of thousands of jobs elsewhere.

U.S. automakers beamed about their market share and new models at the North American International Auto Show this week inside Detroit's Cobo Center, proclaiming a reborn domestic manufacturing industry that stands ready to meet rapidly accelerating domestic demand.

AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson predicted U.S. vehicle sales will climb to 14 million in 2012, although others' estimates are more cautious. Industry sales in 2011 were expected to finish around 12.7 million vehicles, up from 11.6 million in 2010, and J.D. Power and LMC Automotive are forecasting 2012 sales of 13.8 million vehicles, according to Automotive News.

Citing the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), the UAW said Jan. 4 that General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler are likely to add 30,000 hourly and salaried employees in the United States by 2015, and total employment for all U.S. automakers and suppliers will rise during the next four years by about 28 percent -- from 590,000 to 756,000 workers.

In fact, Michigan's employment has been rising for some time. Coming in with a growth rate of 3.3 percent, Oakland County, Mich., ranked eighth nationally in employment growth from June 2010 to June 2011 among the 322 largest U.S. counties, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Jan. 10. The county reports two of the three largest employers in the county during 2011 were auto manufacturers –- Chrysler Group LLC, with 8,194 local employees, and General Motors Co., with 7,729 employees. They ranked behind just one other employer, Beaumont Hospitals, which had 11,235 employees, according to the county's December 2011 report. The only other employer to rank among the top 10 in the county last year by employee count that is not a health care company was the U.S. Postal Service (3,431 employees).

Nexteer Automotive, second-largest employer in Saginaw County, announced a $150 million investment in its Saginaw operations on Oct. 28, 2011.Tied for 10th with 3.2 percent growth in that year was Saginaw County, Mich., where the second-largest employer, advanced steering and driveline systems manufacturer Nexteer Automotive, announced a $150 million investment in its Saginaw operations on Oct. 28, 2011. The company said rising customer demand for fuel-efficient electronic power steering technology spurred the investment, which retained more than 1,000 jobs. Nexteer's announcement said it had 3,780 employees as of that date, with technical staff and production headcount in Saginaw having grown by 20 percent since Pacific Century Motors acquired Nexteer in July 2010.

CAR, which is based in Ann Arbor, Mich., says automotive manufacturing labor productivity grew at a steady annual rate of 0.4 percent from 1960 to 2008. CAR's most recent report on the economic impact of motor vehicle manufacturing to the U.S. economy, issued in April 2010, concluded 5.4 jobs are created elsewhere for every job at an automotive vehicle or parts manufacturing firm. About 1 million direct U.S. jobs were located at such firms in 2010, and they generated an additional 1.966 million supplier jobs, mainly in non-manufacturing sectors. Together, these 2.966 million jobs spun off 3.466 million jobs that depend on consumer spending by the direct and supplier workers, for a grand total of 6.432 million U.S. jobs in 2010 –- and 7.960 million jobs when direct jobs at new vehicle dealerships are included, CAR reported. The 7.960 million figure represents 4.4 percent of all jobs in the U.S. economy, according to CAR.

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