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Shifting Economic Foundations

Shifting Economic Foundations

Manufacturing jobs have declined for years because technology has improved productivity in manufacturing organizations, saturated global competition, and increased job demand in the service sector. The decline in manufacturing jobs and the increase in service sector jobs have impacted wages, employment, and unemployment. These changes are expected to continue at an accelerated rate through the next decade. Manufacturing workers are finding themselves in uncharted waters, at risk of losing their job, and those that have lost their job may be job hopping or unemployed.

Technology has enhanced improvements, creating efficiencies and higher production with less labor needed or used. The increase in automation and robotic technology has taken over many jobs and left a few jobs for a few workers, and because of the pandemic, manufacturers are trying to double – quadruple the technology used in the coming decade (O’Brien, Bair, & Venkataramani, 2022). Many manufacturers saw areas of concern in their processes during the pandemic relating to labor shortages and not being more reliable on the technology. They will be increasing their reliance on automation and robotics for all areas of the supply chain.

Automation and robotics are not the only reason for reduced wages and employment in manufacturing jobs; the foreign manufacturing market has increased the level of competition. U.S. manufacturing companies are having a harder time competing globally because the market is becoming saturated. Although the U.S. is still a top competitor in the trade market, they are not as ahead as it used to be, with many low-income countries entering the trade market, offering lower costs to other countries, decreasing the demand for U.S. exports and reducing the demand for manufactured items (Rose, 2021). To save on costs, manufacturers have reduced labor, wages, and hours, which also impacts the worker’s access to healthcare. Employment in manufacturing has declined from “32 to 8 percent” (Rose, 2021, p. 11), where more than 80% are working in the service sector.

The service sector consists of high-skilled, high-paid, and low-skilled, low-pay jobs and is expected to increase as the manufacturing jobs decrease, balancing each other out (Martocchio, 2019). Agriculture, manual labor, retail, non-administrative positions in offices and schools, and office work are part of the low-skilled service sector and do not require education (Rose, 2021). These positions are decreasing overall but are seeing an influx of workers that are leaving or being pushed out of manufacturing jobs. There is an overall increase in the other sector jobs coming from the manufacturing jobs that require skills and education, such as computing or IT and construction (Rose, 2021).

When the job market in the service sector is strong, which it has been and even more so than experts predicted, it has increased interest rates and played a part in the recession (Labor market clobbers expectations even as wage growth slows, while interest rate-sensitive manufacturing and housing continue to struggle, 2023). Although the service sector job market is strong, low-skilled jobs are very unstable due to economic reasons and have low wages and high turnover. These companies may save on labor or costs by turning these jobs into part-time positions and affecting the worker by reducing their hours and eliminating their benefits (Martocchio, 2019). These positions are already low-paid, and the company experiences a high turnover when they reduce hours. Workers hop from one low-paying job to another, increasing the risk of unemployment. The unemployment for these workers lasts longer than for higher-skilled workers in the service sector (Choper, Schneider, & Harknett, 2022).

Biblical Integration

Uncertainty in jobs can create feelings of worry and confusion. Manufacturer workers that see the jobs around them being eliminated may cause worry about their future. Matthew 11:28-30 describes when Jesus tells the hardworking and burdened people to come to Him (Press, 2015).  As manufacturing jobs are being eliminated and replaced with automation, 1 Corinthians 6:12 reminds us that not all things that happen are good, but we must not let them dominate us (Press, 2015). We have to lean on our faith during those times of uncertainty.