NORTH CANTON, OHIO — More than 1,000 applicants began lining up this week outside a former Hoover vacuum plant here in the hopes of joining a surprising trend in this part of the nation’s manufacturing heartland: new jobs.
Come June, the plant will be churning out EdenPure space heaters, vacuums, air purifiers and other small appliances once made in China. The turnabout for this factory and scores of others across the long-suffering Rust Belt offers vivid evidence of a budding revival in American manufacturing that has been a key driver of the economic recovery.
The nation’s factories have added 250,000 jobs since the beginning of last year — about 13 percent of what was lost during the recent recession — marking the first sustained increase in manufacturing employment since 1997.
But the new hiring also reflects another emerging reality of U.S. manufacturing: Many of the jobs don’t pay anything close to what they used to. Assembly-line workers who will be making the EdenPure products under the auspices of Suarez Corp. Industries will start at $7.50 an hour.
That’s a far cry from the $20 an hour that most workers made with Hoover, which shifted its century-old production lines to Mexico and El Paso in 2007 after concluding that it was too expensive to make its products in the industrial Midwest.
“The communities and workers in Ohio have been devastated over the past decade and are grateful for the opportunity to earn a living,” said Robert Baugh, executive director of the AFL-CIO’s Industrial Union Council. “But this is tempered by reality. One is that the jobs at Suarez, with wages and benefits well below the middle-class ones that were there before, are not a replacement for the ones that left.”
Behind the recovery
The Rust Belt’s nascent recovery is being fueled by a host of factors, including a revitalized auto sector, innovations that have made workers more productive, and a weakened dollar, which makes American products more appealing for export.
Lower labor costs are also a critical factor. But many of the prospective workers who braved a cold rain Monday outside the old Hoover plant for a shot at a job with benefits did not complain.
Read more at The Washington Post.