Ex-autoworkers find temp work

October 9, 2009 http://detnews.com/article/20091009/AUTO01/910090353

Ex-autoworkers find temp work

Those who do get a job earn wages far below auto industry

The Detroit News

Detroit — Temporary job agencies employ more former blue-collar autoworkers than any other industry.

And those who do find new jobs in the auto industry are paid far less than at their old ones.

Those were among the findings presented Thursday at the Automotive Communities Workforce Adjustment conference that ends today at the Detroit branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Over the past year, 47,000 jobs were lost in auto assembly plants and 139,000 jobs vanished in parts-supplier factories, according to W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Kalamazoo, which released its findings Thursday.

Many autoworkers end up taking other factory work for far less pay than what they made in auto assembly or parts-supplier jobs. About 15 percent of former autoworkers end up at temp agencies, and about 12 percent eventually find work in the auto industry again.

The falloff in pay, however, is steep. The average starting wage for former autoworkers is about $23,000 a year, the institute said. That’s roughly half the median wage for an assembler at the Detroit Big Three represented by the UAW.

"The worst is likely behind us," in terms of auto layoffs, said George Erickcek, an Upjohn economist. But the rebound in Michigan auto jobs will be meager: about 1,110 new jobs annually to 2016.

There are few jobs whose required skills match well against those of assembly workers, Erickcek said. The closest: forest firefighters and various oil drilling jobs, he said.

"Most workers will need retraining," he said, or likely face a lower standard of living.

According to the Brookings Institution, there are 62 "auto-dependent" metropolitan areas in the U.S., meaning the share of auto jobs in those areas is at least double the U.S. average.

Most are smaller communities that tend to rely on one or two plants, such as Kokomo, Ind., where 20 percent of its jobs are auto-related. Five percent of Metro Detroit jobs are linked directly to the automakers and part suppliers, said Brookings economist Howard Wial.

Of the 62 communities, 25 have experienced "structural decline," meaning they have steadily lost jobs in transportation equipment manufacturing for much of the decade, Wial said. The Metro Detroit and Flint areas also have among the highest auto job losses, around 10 percent, during the latest recession, from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the second quarter of 2009.

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