The Surprising Strength of Texas' Manufacturing Sector


Greater productivity and manufacturing diversity have placed Texas at the forefront of U.S. manufacturing employment growth.



First among all U.S. states in export revenue and second in manufacturing output, Texas has been an unusual bright spot in the notoriously stagnant manufacturing sector. The numbers are startling: a report from the National Association of Manufacturers shows that from 2001 to 2006, manufacturing in Texas grew at a 45.3% clip. As of December 2007, there were over 927,000 Texas manufacturing jobs. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Texas has shown substantial employment growth over the past 15 years in manufacturing sectors that are in decline elsewhere, e.g. 52% growth in furniture manufacturing jobs versus 12% decline nationwide, 11% growth in electrical manufacturing jobs versus 30% decline nationwide, etc.


High productivity and a diverse range of industry sectors are two of the primary reasons for Texas' impressive performance. Though statistics for lean manufacturing jobs are difficult to obtain, more efficient technologies and production methods have clearly had an impact on productivity. In just 10 years, Texas has gone from virtually even with the national manufacturing productivity average (as measured by output per worker) to 30% above it. Texas has even outpaced California in worker productivity in high-demand sectors such as computers and electronics.


The leading sectors for manufacturing and production jobs in Texas are chemicals, computers and electronics, food products, petroleum and coal, and machinery. Texas jobs in manufacturing are heavily concentrated by city and industry. Figures from the Texas Workforce Commission show that 90% of the factory jobs in Texas are located in or near the state's major metropolitan areas.


Houston jobs in manufacturing are primarily in chemicals, petroleum, machinery, fabricated metals, electrical equipment, and food products. Half of all Texas jobs in chemicals and petroleum manufacturing are based in Houston. Dallas jobs in computer and electronics manufacturing represent over 40% of state employment in those sectors. Though jobs in Austin, Texas make up only 6% of statewide manufacturing employment, the capital employs over 25% of the state's computer and electronics manufacturing workers, befitting its nickname of Silicon Hills.


The outlook for manufacturing careers in Texas is expected to remain strong despite the current recession. An economics report released in March by Wells Fargo cited the positive export market created by the weak U.S. dollar as a likely stimulus for the manufacturing industry, concluding that the export sector should remain one of the principal drivers of economic growth in Texas.


--Joshua Avram

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