Manufacturing remains a significant part of the Massachusetts economy, though not its largest sector. However, the industry is still facing a number of challenges in the state, from lower workforce participation rates to ongoing demographic concerns.
As recently as 2021, the manufacturing industry in Massachusetts accounts for 9.72% of the total gross output in the state, or $56.14 billion. Approximately 5,900 firms employ 240,000 people, or 6.71% of the total Massachusetts non-farm workforce.
These firms range in specialties, but two sectors stand out in terms of economic output: computer and electronic product manufacturing, which accounts for over $15 billion, and chemical manufacturing, which accounts for another $12.5 billion. The top five are then rounded out by miscellaneous durable goods ($4.5 billion), fabricated metal products ($4 billion), and food, beverage, and tobacco products ($3.2 billion).
Although manufacturing is a significant part of the Massachusetts economy, it hasn’t been immune from the challenges faced by the state’s labor situation as a whole. In January 2023, the Massachusetts manufacturing industry remained at 1.2% lower employment than it was in February 2020 – a better situation than industries like leisure and hospitality (which remains 8.5% lower) or retail trade (4.1% lower), but lagging behind industries such as information, professional services, and construction, all of which have rebounded and even surpassed their 2020 levels of employment.
The lag in manufacturing recovery is tied to another statewide trend: a shrinking labor force overall. The number of age-eligible people either working or actively looking for work has shrunk by about 2.9% since the labor force peaked in July 2019. Massachusetts also faces an ongoing demographic challenge: the youth population (under age 18) makes up just 21% of the total state population, ranking 45th in the country. With this population ratio, Massachusetts must deal with a coming challenge: not enough new, Gen-Z workers entering the labor force to replace retiring Boomers (and exiting employees of all ages).
Recruiting for manufacturing roles in Massachusetts requires addressing some of the key factors that are affecting labor throughout the state. Employees are looking for a strong employee value proposition, including pay, benefits, and work-life balance, in order to accept a job in this employee-friendly market. Companies will need to re-evaluate their talent strategy, and even consult with expert recruiters, to successfully secure top talent.
By Rose Dorta
Are you a high-performing leader or believe you have the potential to tackle a more challenging role? Would you be interested in career opportunities that are seeking these attributes?
I’d love to chat with you and answer any questions that you have. Email me, Rose Dorta, managing director of Kaizen HR Solutions, here.