Manufacturing Jobs: Examples, Types and Changes

12.5 Million Americans Earn $81,289/Year in These Types of Jobs

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It's easy to see why these jobs are highpaying. Photo:Steve Weinrebe/Getty Images

Definition: Manufacturing jobs are those that create new products either directly from raw materials or components. These jobs are usually in a factory, plant or mill. They can also be in a home, as long as products, not services, are created. (Source: "," U.S. Census Bureau.)

For example, bakeries, candy stores, and custom tailors are considered manufacturing because they create products out of components.

On the other hand, book publishing, logging, and mining are not considered manufacturing because they don't change the good into a new product.

Construction is in its own category and is not considered manufacturing.  For more, see Top 10 New Homebuilders and The Role of the Commercial Real Estate Industry. (Source: "," U.S. Census Bureau.)

There are 12.5 million Americans in manufacturing jobs. They earned $81,289 (includes pay and benefits) on average in 2015. That's 12 percent more than the average worker. (Source: "," National Association of Manufacturers.)

In 2016, manufacturing workers produced $1.4 trillion, or 8 percent, of the nation's economic output. For more, see Components of GDP.

The United States is the world's largest manufacturer, at 18.2 percent of the total. China is a close second, at 17.6 percent. In fact, if U.S. manufacturing were a country, it would be the 10th largest in the world.

American manufacturing alone produces more than the entire economic output of Canada or Mexico.

U.S. manufacturing workers are the most productive in the world. That's due to increased use of computers and robotics. They also reduced the number of jobs by replacing workers. 

Types of Manufacturing Jobs

The Census divides manufacturing industries into many sectors.

Here's a summary.

  • Food, Beverage, and Tobacco
  • Textiles, Leather, and Apparel
  • Wood, Paper, and Printing
  • Petroleum, Coal, Chemicals, Plastics and Rubber
  • Nonmetallic Mineral
  • Primary Metal, Fabricated Metal, and Machinery
  • Computer and Electronics
  • Electrical Equipment, Appliances, and Components
  • Transportation
  • Furniture
  • Miscellaneous Manufacturing

If you want details about any of the industries, go to the  . It will tell you more about the sector, including trends and prices in the industry. You'll also find statistics about the workforce itself, including fatalities, injuries, and illnesses.

A second resource is the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It provides a guide to the types of jobs that are in these industries. Here's a quick list:

  • Assemblers and Fabricators
  • Bakers
  • Dental Laboratory Technicians
  • Food Processing Occupations
  • Food Processing Operators
  • Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers
  • Machinists and Tool and Die
  • Medical Appliance Technicians
  • Metal and Plastic Machine Workers
  • Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians
  • Painting and Coating Workers
  • Power Plant Operators
  • Printing
  • Quality Control
  • Semiconductor Processors
  • Sewers and Tailors
  • Slaughterers and Meat Packers
  • Stationary Engineers and Boiler Operators
  • Upholsterers
  • Water and Wastewater Treatment
  • Welders, Cutters, Solderers
  • Woodworkers

The BLS describes what these jobs are like, how much education or training is needed, and the salary level. It also will tell you what it's like to work in the occupation, how many there are, and whether it's a growing field. You can also find what particular skills are used, whether specific certification is required, and how to get the training needed. This guide can be found at .

Trends in Manufacturing Jobs

Manufacturing processes are changing, and so are the job skills that are needed. Manufacturers are always searching for more cost-effective ways of producing their goods. That's why, even though the number of jobs is projected to decline, the jobs that remain are likely to be higher paid.

However, they will require education and training to acquire the skills needed.

That's for two reasons. First, the demand for manufactured products is growing from emerging markets like India and China. McKinsey ​estimated this could nearly triple, to $30 trillion, by 2025. These countries would demand 70 percent of global manufactured goods.

How will this demand change manufacturing jobs? Companies will have to offer products specific to the needs of these very diverse markets. As a result, customer service jobs will become more important to manufacturers.

Second, manufacturers are adopting very sophisticated technology to both meet these specialized needs and to lower costs. Here are six:

  1. Nanotechnology is creating a new era of microelectronics.
  2. Lightweight steel, aluminum, and carbon fibers are making cars lighter and more fuel-efficient.
  3. Bio-engineering creates more customized pharmaceuticals.
  4. 3D printing creates prototypes by combining small particles rather than by casting or stamping. However, they are being used more and more to manufacture specialized aerospace components and replacement human organs. 
  5. Robots are becoming more sophisticated.
  6. Big data is being used to analyze customer trends and guide product development.

(Source: "," Harvard Business Review, January 31, 2013.)