What both candidates ignored is the fact that the manufacturing now pays (and has since 2006 paid) lower wages than the average for the private sector as a whole (as readers can see in the chart above). In September, the average hourly wage for a nonsupervisory worker in manufacturing was $20.59, more than a dollar an hour less than for other workers in the private sector.
Employers may complain about a “talent shortage,” about not being able to find enough skilled workers to fill jobs, but they’re not willing to pay higher wages to attract those workers. The problem is, most factory jobs have been redefined as lower-level work.
According to a recent report from the University of California-Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education (pdf), a large number (34 percent) of the families of frontline manufacturing production workers are enrolled in one or more public safety net programs.
The high utilization of public safety net programs by frontline manufacturing production workers is primarily a result of low wages, rather than inadequate work hours. e families of 32 percent of all manufacturing production workers and 46 percent of those employed through staffing agencies who worked at least 35 hours a week and 45 weeks during the year were enrolled in one or more public safety net program.
Thus, between 2009 and 2013, the federal government and the states spent more than $10.2 billion per year on public safety-net programs for workers (and their families) who hold frontline manufacturing production jobs. (This includes workers directly hired by manufacturers and those hired through staffing agencies.)
As I have explained before, I hold no particular nostalgia for industry in the hinterlands of the U.S. economy.
Nor do American workers. They may be angry about their current plight but neither the current presidential candidates nor employers are willing to do what is necessary to create decent, well-paying jobs for the millions of people who have been laid off or who are currently forced to sell their ability to work to obtain precarious jobs at substandard wages.
Calls to restore the manufacturing sector to its former glory may do something for employers but they offer little in the way of real solutions to American workers.
*And Trump (but not Clinton) is criticized for ignoring the fact that the “nation’s manufacturing sector is actually booming.”