The past year has been a difficult one for many industries across the country. Millions of workers, especially those in the service industry, found themselves either temporarily out of work or laid off as their employers struggled to stay afloat. Despite the increase in unemployment, there was one sector that is dealing with labor shortages: manufacturing.
Labor shortages are not an entirely new problem for manufacturers. However, the pandemic created a rather unique situation. On the one hand, many factories across a wide range of industries saw a surge in demand, especially for in-demand items like masks and cleaning supplies. At the same time, factories were limited in how many workers they could have at a time due to social distancing measures. Supply shortages also made it difficult to get enough goods produced to meet demand.
Now, one year after the pandemic seriously began, demand still remains high in many areas. Additionally, more factories are able to get back to regular operating procedures, especially as vaccines become more widely available. Out of the 916,000 jobs which were created last month, 53,000 were for manufacturing positions according to the Labor Department. This is the highest number of new factory jobs in the last six months.
While there are more jobs available, manufacturers are finding it hard to fill them even as so many remain out of work. One theory is that the bulk of those laid off are from the service industry, and at this point, many of them will be looking for service jobs as things begin to open up again. Whereas only one in every ten factory workers were laid off, one in every six service workers lost their jobs. If the bulk of the jobs coming back are service-related, then it makes sense why factories have still struggled to fill growing open positions.