Md. shed 3,856 jobs over year at factories

The Baltimore Sun

Maryland's manufacturing industry continued to shrink over the past year, shedding 3,856 jobs and 114 manufacturers during the 12 months ended in May 2006, according to a company that tracks its comings and goings.

Many of the job losses can be attributed to new technology and outsourcing, said Tom Dubin, president of Evanston, Ill.-based Manufacturers' News Inc., which has conducted an annual survey of the industry since 1912.

"Manufacturing output is as high as ever," Dubin said. "Companies are leaner and meaner these days."

And manufacturing employees - who require more training than they did decades ago - are getting paid more to reflect their higher skill level, Dubin said. At the same time, however, he said companies are moving entry-level assembly line jobs - which don't require more than "turning a wrench" - overseas, where it's cheaper, he said.

Almost half of the Maryland companies that shuttered their doors during the May-to-May period employed five or fewer workers, the survey found. A dozen companies employing a total of 161 moved operations out of state, with five of them relocating to Virginia and three to Pennsylvania.

Those that have left the state were lured by tax breaks, job training and other incentives, Dubin said. The Washington area added 36 manufacturers.

David W. Edgerley, state business and economic development secretary, said manufacturing may no longer be a growth industry in this state, but it is a source of stable, good-paying jobs. He said technology has caused companies to shed jobs.

"We have all watched manufacturing right-size itself," said Edgerley, a native of Western Maryland who was visiting manufacturing companies on the Eastern Shore yesterday with the governor. "One machine can do the work of many people."

He said manufacturers are looking to the state to provide job training programs and transportation improvements to help them grow here.

Dubin said the state is on par with others in the Mid-Atlantic region that are seeing an annual decline in manufacturing of around 2 to 3 percent. Maryland's decrease was 1.7 percent.

Overall, the survey counted nearly 206,000 employees working at 5,521 manufacturers.

Central Maryland, including Baltimore, is home to the largest amount of manufacturers in the state, with nearly 80 percent or 162,767 jobs, down a half of a percent during the 12-month period, the survey said. The city remained Maryland's top industrial employer, with 40,024 jobs, down 1.6 percent.

Western Maryland accounts for 23,380 jobs or 11.3 percent, down 8 percent over the year, while eastern Maryland represents 19,767 jobs, down 4.6 percent from the previous May.

Publishing and printing was the largest industry, accounting for 21 percent.

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