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Study: U.S. Manufacturing Could Need 3.8 Million New Employees by 2033

As many as 1.9 million jobs could go unfilled.

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iStock.com/Sunan Wongsa-nga

In December 2023, Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute (MI) began their sixth manufacturing talent study in more than two decades. The study“Taking charge: Manufacturers support growth with active workforce strategies,” involved an online survey of more than 200 U.S. manufacturers, interviews with more than 10 senior executives from manufacturing organizations of all sizes and across all sectors and an extensive collation of secondary data on labor supply and demand.

According to the study, the U.S. manufacturing industry could see a net need for as many as 3.8 million jobs between 2024 and 2033 as significant investment continues to drive growth. The study also found that 1.9 million of these jobs could go unfilled if workforce challenges are not addressed through 2033.

Filling open positions and retaining workers is a top concern for many manufacturers, according to 65% of respondents. 

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The demand for digital skills is accelerating as operations and products become more complex and information from smart connected devices and systems needs to be integrated and analyzed. Deloitte and the MI's analysis show that, in the last five years, there has been a 75% increase in demand for simulation and simulation software skills, sought mostly for technology-enabled production or testing roles. 

Deloitte and the MI projects that roles such as statisticians, data scientists, engineers, logisticians, computer and information systems managers, software developers and industrial maintenance technicians are likely to grow at the fastest pace between 2022 and 2032. For production roles, the fastest growing are likely to be those that require higher-level skill sets, including semiconductor processing technicians, machinists, first-line supervisors, welders and electronics and electromechanical assemblers. 

Manufacturers are increasing and varying investments to meet the needs, skills requirements and values of the evolving workforce, while also creating strategies to increase existing employee retention. About 47% of respondents in Deloitte and the MI’s study indicated that flexible work arrangements, including flexible shifts, shift swapping and split shifts, is most impactful for retaining employees. Also, employees are 2.7 times less likely to leave the organization in the next 12 months if they feel they can acquire necessary skills that are important for the future, according to Deloitte research. 

To meet the talent need, manufacturers are expanding the talent pool. More than nine out of 10 surveyed manufacturers said they are forming at least one partnership to improve job attraction and retention, and on average, they are partnering with four or more. The top five partnership types are: technical colleges (73%), industry associations (58%), universities (48%), state and regional economic development agencies (47%) and K-12 schools (44%). 

Supported by Deloitte’s economics team, the study conducted proprietary analysis on labor supply and demand data to explore the potential impact of unfilled jobs on the nation’s economy. The study also includes extensive analysis of data comprising manufacturing job descriptions and analysis of growth trends. Research included a targeted analysis of over 80 manufacturing companies’ annual reports and investor presentations.

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