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March 20, 2007

Manufacturing jobs, increasingly undercounted

As I described in my August 2006 entry, government statistics tend to significantly undercount manufacturing activity. The undercounting occurs because manufacturing companies increasingly outsource service activities that they formerly performed “inhouse,” such as accounting, payroll, design, R&D, and others. These activities are increasingly attributed to service industry sectors in the national statistics rather than to manufacturing. For the Midwest, where manufacturing plays an important part in its economy, the undercounting can seriously mislead us as we try to understand the source of our livelihood.

But, more than services are being outsourced. Susan Houseman of the Upjohn Institute and her co-authors Matthew Dey and Anne Polivka of the Bureau of Labor Statistics find that U.S. manufacturing companies have also increasingly outsourced their “blue-collar” and production roles. They do this in an indirect way; they use temporary and leased workers (usually on-site) who are technically counted as employees of “employment services agencies.” Because these workers remain technically employees of the employment services agencies, the statistical counts of the work force of the companies that use employment services appear light, and declines in employment may be illusory, merely reflecting this outsourcing.

The number and size of employment services workers in the U.S. economy has grown rapidly over the past 16 years, easily outstripping overall payroll employment growth by a factor of six. And behind this growth, worker occupations in the employment services industry have been shifting toward industrial workers at the expense of office and administrative occupations. According to a survey by the American Staffing Association, 58 percent of customers engage temporary or contract workers to fill needs in industrial occupations.

In their research, Houseman and her co-authors draw on public databases to estimate the rapidly growing use of temporary and contract workers by manufacturing companies in the United States. They find that “the number of employment services workers assigned to manufacturing grew by about 1 million, from about 419,000 in 1989 to over 1.4 million in 2000.”

How does this practice affect the size of the U.S. manufacturing work force? Per the Houseman research, the outsized growth of temporary and contract workers by manufacturing companies implies that, rather than falling as reported, manufacturing employment actually grew by 1.4 percent in the U.S. between 1989 and 2000.

In researching why manufacturing firms use temporary workers, research by Yukako Ono and Daniel Sullivan finds that growing firms tend to take on temporary workers rather than permanent employees when they expect that their output may fall in the near future. By doing so, firms are spared the high costs of firing workers when they must curtail their production.

Because of such company behaviors, temporary or contract workers tend to be first hired and fired by companies during swings in national economic activity. During the 2001 recession, for example, the Houseman research finds that job declines in the manufacturing sector tended to be sharper than reported. Similarly, post-2001, manufacturers were more likely to hire workers from employment services agencies than to hire permanent workers, thereby understating recovery in manufacturing.

The miscounting also wreaks havoc with official productivity statistics. Since many measures of productivity are constructed as “output per worker,” an increasing tendency to undercount workers employed by manufacturers tends to overstate productivity growth in the manufacturing sector in comparison to many other industry sectors.

What are the regional differences in undercounting of manufacturing? We do not know this yet. However, if Midwest manufacturing companies behave like their national counterparts with respect to outsourcing of staff, Houseman’s findings for the nation imply that employment-services workers add 8.7 percent to direct-hire employment in Midwest manufacturing.

While we do not know that Midwest manufacturers outsource from employment service firms to the same extent as the nation, we do know that the employment services industry is very prominent in the Midwest. As measured by annual revenue, the nation’s top employment services corporation, Manpower, is headquartered in Milwaukee; the number two corporation is Kelly Services near Detroit.

More broadly, the chart below tracks the growth in “employment services” employees for both the U.S. and the East North Central region since 1990. The top chart indicates that the growth in these outsourced jobs has grown equally rapidly in comparison to the nation. Indiana and Michigan, ranking number first and fourth nationally in relative manufacturing concentration in 2005, experienced especially strong growth in employment services.


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The second chart indicates that the Midwest’s concentration of employees of the employment services industry has grown in relation to the U.S. Michigan has led the way, with a concentration that is now more than one-third greater than the U.S.

In examining hiring patterns from the employment services sector, Susan Houseman and her co-researchers are on to an important avenue in assisting the nation and the regions to understand the composition of their economies.


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Posted by Testa at 2:05 PM | Comments (0)

March 13, 2007

Higher Education and Chicago’s Development

With economic growth lagging in many Midwest communities, institutions of higher education are being asked to play a bigger role in their surrounding regional economies. This past fall, the Chicago Fed held a conference addressing the role of higher education in promoting regional growth and development.

In what ways does higher education fit into the regional development picture? The ways discussed at the conference were many and varied; certainly, one size does not fit all. In places ranging from Silicon Valley to Route 128 in Boston and even to Fargo, North Dakota, universities are transferring technology to industrial facilities in adjacent industrial parks and to fledgling high tech firms. In other places, including Akron, Ohio, and Rochester, New York, universities are active in helping redirect mature but declining local industries into new products and markets. And Indiana’s Purdue University has embarked on an ambitious engagement and outreach mission along several fronts: teaching, discovery, community outreach, and identifying local targets of economic development.

While the conference did not address the university role in Chicago’s growth and development, our outstanding business schools have clearly played a key role. Today, among many fine business programs, the city touts the perpetual top ten national ranking of Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and the University of Chicago’s GSB, along with the frequent top ten ranking of Depaul University’s evening MBA program. As we look at Chicago’s industrial and business history, we see how these schools continually pump new life into Chicago’s economy.

For example, advanced business services and corporate headquarters activities are today the hallmark of Chicago’s economy. The city gave birth to some of the most prominent management consulting (NAICS 54161) firms and today continues to host a very significant number of such companies. Chicago ranks third in the U.S. among metropolitan areas in number of management consulting firms, and second in concentration of such firms, at some 120% above the national average.

How did this come about? Writing in the Encyclopedia of Chicago, Christopher McKenna describes the genesis of this Chicago-born industry. “Arthur Andersen, a professor of Accounting at Northwestern University, founded his eponymous firm in 1913. … Arthur Andersen & Co. began to specialize in financial investigations, the forerunner of the modern consulting industry.” And, “instead of employing local banking staff, New York and Boston financiers hired Chicago consultants to analyze the management of Midwestern companies in which they planned to invest.”

Andersen’s initiative was quickly followed in 1914 by Edwin Booz, a recent graduate of Northwestern in psychology. The company eventually became Booz Allen & Hamilton. So too, James O. McKinsey, an expert in cost accounting at the University of Chicago, founded a consulting practice (in 1926) that split off into the firm bearing his name as well as into A.T. Kearney. All became world-wide bulwark companies in what is now a global industry of great strategic importance to the world’s largest companies and businesses.

Jump ahead 50 years to the early 1970s. Chicago’s risk management and risk exchange community was re-invigorated when Leo Melamed, one-time Chairman of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, launched contract trading in international currencies. Also in the 1970s, a former professor at the University of California at Berkeley, Richard Sandor, helped develop the Chicago Board of Trade’s U.S. Treasury futures contract trading.

Today, Chicago is a global leader in financial futures and options trading, with a 23% global share in exchange-traded contracts measured by volume. In addition to direct employment at Chicago’s exchanges and associated clearing operations, trading activity gives rise to ancillary employment in various Chicago businesses such as banking, brokerage, law, business publication, and computer systems and software.

For this industry too, the University of Chicago figures prominently in the story of its birth. University mentors both espoused the social value of trading financial instruments and also developed mathematical pricing models of assets that served as the basis for some trading. As recently described by Leo Melamed, Nobel Laureate and University of Chicago economist, Milton Friedman was a notable inspiration, teacher, and consultant to the launch of currency futures trading in the early 1970s.

Today, Richard Sandor remains busy in Chicago developing a new industry that addresses global climate change by capping polluting air emissions among member firms and then trading credits for pollution reduction among these firms.

Meanwhile, students from Chicago area business schools, such as Joe Mansueto of Morningstar, have recently grown new industries, this one centering on the tracking and analysis of mutual fund products.

In contrast to places such as the Stanford-Silicon Valley area, Chicago is not especially recognized for research and science-based commercial spinoffs from its universities. But several local universities are attempting to marry their business curriculums with their science and engineering activity. For one, the College of Business at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) is training future business leaders by encouraging them to construct business plans for inventions and intellectual property coming out of UIC labs. One recent sale of note involves a product that will possibly halve the time it takes orthodonic devices to straighten teeth.

What does this history imply for public policy? For starters, if we are to interfere effectively for purposes of economic development, we surely must understand the nexus among our assets and institutions. Chicago is clearly a “business town,” and its business schools have not only supported the business climate by training graduates for local companies but also indirectly by spinning off new businesses and industries.

But in considering issues of greatly enhanced public support or subsidy, it would be a mistake to attribute too much to universities alone. That is because causation goes both ways. While Chicago’s business schools have spawned much local growth, so too has local business growth created and supported the growth of universities and business school programs.

A city’s assets and institutions are best thought of, perhaps, as enjoying a symbiotic relationship. Accordingly, local public policy should start by strengthening inter-connections among local enterprises and enterprising people. Government likely has no great ability to pick and choose which particular connections to strengthen. And so, the primary course should be to provide desired and cost-effective public services and infrastructure, especially in transportation and communication. Restrained yet well-designed regulation and taxation should be another part of the mix.

Next, public-private programs and civic partnerships may be helpful in drawing closer social and cooperative connections among our diverse Chicago communities, industries, and civic institutions. As Chicago’s business history has shown, some amazing successes can arise from enterprising partners in a dynamic city.


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Posted by Testa at 10:16 AM | Comments (0)

March 5, 2007

Manufacturing exports continue to excel

Even as much of the Midwest’s automotive industry remains troubled, the region’s overall manufacturing exports continue to impress. In the Seventh District, manufactured exports make up around 7% of gross state product; this is on par with the nation’s economy (also discussed in a previous blog). While this share is not huge, the manufacturing sector’s rapid growth of exports in recent years translates into an outsized contribution to the region’s growth. Export growth of manufactured products will exceed 11% in 2006, which marks the third consecutive year of similar growth. By our reckoning, strong export growth from manufacturing made up roughly one-sixth of the Seventh District's overall output growth in 2006.


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What’s propelling these exports? For the most part, it’s been due to continued strong global economic recovery and expansion. Following two years of weak growth in 2001 and 2002, the global economy began to recover. According to estimates gathered and reported by the IMF, the global economy grew by 5.1% in 2006. This followed three years of similarly strong expansion. As of early 2007, forecasts and expectations for this year are equally robust.

Among our major trading partners, Mainland China has exhibited the strongest growth; it has been reporting growth rates of 8% to10% over the past seven years. Accordingly, Seventh District manufacturing exports to China have been growing rapidly at an average annual pace of 9.3% per year since 1997.

The chart below illustrates that Midwestern exports to China have come to represent an increasing share of the region's overall exports to Asia. In 1997, overall goods exports to China, including agriculuture, mining, and manufacturing, accounted for only 13.7% of the Seventh District’s exports to Asia. By last year, however, China’s share almost reached 20 percent. (See black line).

Manufactured goods exports accounted for most of this expansion. Moreover, expanding manufactured exports were widespread across broad industry sectors including transportation equipment, machinery and metals.

The second chart below ranks manufactured exports to destination nations in 1997 and 2006. While Canada remains far and away the region’s predominant export destination, China now ranks fifth, behind Canada, Mexico, the U.K., and Japan. The Seventh District states exported $4.9 billion of manufactured goods to China-Hong Kong last year.



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The Seventh District’s manufacturing sector continues to be large and export oriented. This means that global economic growth will continue to figure prominently in the region’s growth. However, this assumes that U.S. policies of open world trade and investment will continue to be expanded. Agreements to open our trade across the globe help develop and stimulate the economies of our trading partners. In response, our trading partners turn to the industrial Midwest for many of their purchases.


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Posted by Testa at 1:13 PM | Comments (0)