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Boston Manufacturing Not What it Used to Be

Boston's manufacturing sector has dropped by nearly half since 2001, but the decline may be over.

If you worked in a Boston manufacturing job in 2001, there’s a high chance that you don’t anymore.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that if you work in one today, according to analysis from the Boston Redevelopment Authority, you will probably be able to keep it for the foreseeable future.

The city’s manufacturing sector has dropped by nearly half in the past ten years, from 18,141 in 2001 to 9.545 in 2010. The authority’s research division expects that decline to stop, and even reverse—adding 1.8 percent (or 175) more jobs by 2015.

But the character of the sector has changed sharply. Manufacturing used to be a job destination for high school graduates who labored in large, centralized facilities working closely with many other similarly-educated workers in similar roles.

Today, in Boston, roughly half of all manufacturing workers have at least some college education on their resumes, and roughly a quarter have an undergraduate or graduate degree. As the authority’s report put it, “the industry overall requires modest skills.”

“Most occupations in manufacturing require some preparation, such as a high school diploma and previous manufacturing-related skills,” the report said.

And those standardized jobs are difficult to find. The report identified the Boston manufacturing industry’s top ten occupations by employment and found that those ten occupations make up just 23 percent of all the city’s manufacturing jobs.

A map accompanying the report shows small manufacturing facilities scattered across all the city’s neighborhoods. The map also shows a dense concentration of manufacturing jobs in the city’s downtown area, with hundreds on or near Beacon Hill.

But, if you can snag a manufacturing job, they actually pay more than the average for jobs in Boston. According to the report, the average Boston manufacturing job pays $56,605 compared to a citywide $53,075.

Overall manufacturing is the city’s 15th-largest job sector—making manufacturing far less important to Boston than it is to the country on average.

Click on the .pdf on the right for the full report.

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