Factory Workers Busiest Since WWII

Services may make up the biggest part of the U.S. economy, but factory workers are sure in demand.

American men and women spent an average 42.1 hours a week on assembly lines in May, the most in the post-World War II era, Labor Department data show. The postwar peak was first eclipsed in November, when the workweek lengthened to 42 hours.

Workers were late to the dinner table too as average overtime climbed to 4.6 hours, the most in more than eight years.

Those producing long-lasting durable goods worked 42.6 hours, the most since January 1998.

And, Ford F-150 pickups, Chevrolet Silverados and Chrysler Jeep Grand Cherokees weren’t the only products rolling off assembly lines — though at 44.6 hours, the average workweek at automakers matched the third-longest since February 1995.

Makers of primary and fabricated metals, machinery and furniture all toiled more.factoryworkweek

Workers are being rewarded as a result with hourly earnings of non-supervisory factory employees making durable goods rising 1.8 percent from May 2013, matching the second-biggest 12-month gain since April 2011.

Furniture makers’ 41 hours matched the most since records began in January 1990. Fabricated-metal workers put in 42.6 hours last month to match the second-longest workweek in 24 years, while the workweek in the primary-metals industry rose to 44.7 hours, the most since July 2011. Those building machinery put in 43.3 hours to match the second-highest since June 1998.

As workers put in more hours manning spot welding and milling machines, lathes and drill presses, employment gains within manufacturing are becoming more broad-based. A Labor Department measure of the breadth of producers hiring in May improved to a four-month high.industryworkweek

Manufacturers project sales will rise 4.1 percent over the next 12 months, the most in more than two years, according to a survey released yesterday by the National Association of Manufacturing.

For those looking for work in the nation’s factories, the longer workweek and a brighter outlook for sales suggests manufacturers may soon be putting out more help-wanted signs. Job openings at factories rose in April to highest level this year, according to a Labor Department today. That’s good news considering the 5.4 percent gain in factory employment since the end of 2009 has lagged behind the 6.8 percent increase in total payrolls.

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