At the close of 2014, a look back reveals a healthy and encouraging year for the manufacturing industry and for the labor market as a whole. As the nation continues to recover from the damage of the recent economic downturn, the job market slowly but steadily returns to its pre-recession highs. Here are a few of the takeaways from data gathered during the final quarter of the year.
The jobless rate now hovers at around 5.8 percent.
At the current rate of slow but continual growth, with employers adding about 200,000 jobs per month across all industries, the slack in the labor market should tighten with the next few years. Unemployment rates are expected to fall by about one tenth of a percentage point each month for at least the next twelve months.
A tightening job market will attract discouraged job seekers.
As manufacturing experience and other forms of skill begin to rise in market value, current job seekers will be removed from the market, and increasing demand will encourage the return of those who have stopped looking for work.
Wages will increase to sustainable levels.
Many economists and workers have shared a similar concern about the even pace of the current recovery: while profits and hiring increase, real wages have yet to show corresponding gains. Job seekers are finding more opportunity and corporations are growing and thriving, but ordinary workers are still struggling with stagnant wages. This lag is expected to close slightly as the labor market tightens and companies begin competing for necessary skills and top talent. As wages reach livable levels, consumer spending and demand for new products will also increase.
Employers will reassess long-term joblessness.
Some employers in the manufacturing sector have taken exception to candidates with gaps in their employment history that extend beyond six months. But this trend is rapidly declining as managers increase their competition for top talent. Those who overlook the long-term unemployed are losing critical access to skilled labor. At the same time, those who ignore this minor concern are hiring better and stronger employees at a faster rate. As they do so, their company reputation improves and they attract more and better applicants.