The New Jersey manufacturing industry cannot find enough skilled labor to fill jobs — which is ironic since the state’s unemployment rate continues to lag the national jobless average. That problem has drawn the attention of state lawmakers, and they’ve formed a bipartisan working group to come up with policies that could help bridge the gap.
The leaders of the New Jersey manufacturing companies testified to the group yesterday; their companies make everything from basic nuts and bolts to more sophisticated metal components used by medical and aerospace industries. The lawmakers heard concerns ranging from gaps in current workforce-development programs to insufficient marketing of the state’s manufacturing industry as a good career opportunity for high-school graduates.
Some of the executives also cautioned lawmakers about Gov. Phil Murphy’s plan to raise the hourly minimum wage to $15, warning it could lead them to adopt automation that in turn would reduce the industry’s current demand for labor. And they said taxes and the general cost of doing business in New Jersey remains a top issue as they try to compete against manufacturing companies in other states where taxes are lower and regulations are not as strict.
“First thing to say — and it’s been said before — don’t raise our costs. Please,” said Bob Staudinger, president of Chatham-based National Manufacturing, which makes metal components for medical and aerospace products.
Still a $40B industry
At one time during the past century, half of New Jersey’s jobs were in manufacturing, as industries like textiles and telecommunications boomed. And though there’s been a decline since then, manufacturing is still a $40 billion industry in New Jersey, with more than 10,000 companies employing an estimated 360,000 people.
Productivity in manufacturing in New Jersey has also grown by nearly 4 percent annually in recent years, about 2.5 percentage points higher than non-manufacturing growth, and more than 70 percent of the state’s manufacturers said in a recent survey that they are on the hunt for new employees, according to information compiled by the New Jersey Business & Industry Association.
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