A study released by the Northeastern Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center (NEPIRC) establishes manufacturing as the driver industry behind Pennsylvania’s rural economy and the premier provider of jobs and wages within the commonwealth’s non-urban areas.
According to the report, which utilizes information provided by EMSI, a leading labor market data analysis firm, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, the Pennsylvania Center for Workforce Information & Analysis and other sources, manufacturing accounts for 14.7% of Pennsylvania’s non-urban jobs, making it the second (2nd) largest employment sector within those communities.
With nearly 175,000 workers, the commonwealth’s more than 4,300 industrial firms provide total annual compensation of $11.23 million to their workers – more than any other sector. Overall, 17.1% of total annual rural worker compensation is paid by manufacturers.
“While historically known for its agricultural output or, perhaps more recently, for the emergence of new energy sector industries, the commonwealth’s non-urban communities remain reliant upon small and mid-sized manufacturers for the provision of stable, secure, family-sustaining jobs,” said Eric Joseph Esoda, NEPIRC’s President & CEO and author of the report.
“With an average employee compensation level more than 20% higher than the overall regional worker level, families all across rural Pennsylvania depend upon manufacturers to preserve and advance their quality of life,” he added.
The report also highlights that while rural manufacturing employment grew at a faster rate following the recession than within comparable urban sectors, several key subsectors – Beverage Manufacturing, Fabricated Metals, Food Manufacturing, Transportation Equipment and Wood Products – expanded dynamically since 2009. Together, those industries alone added 8,514 new manufacturing jobs since the turn of the decade, infusing an additional $551.5 million in annual worker compensation to the rural Pennsylvania economy.
According to the report, some unique cost advantages, improved infrastructure, abundant natural resources and an experienced and dedicated workforce contributed to the recent growth in rural manufacturer employment.
The report concludes, however, that in order to maximize their growth and ensure their continued vitality, manufacturers need ongoing assistance to capitalize on new technologies and explore modern initiatives such as reshoring, creating localized supply chains, leveraging broadband technology and diversifying into new markets.