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Manufacturing jobs down in NYC; service jobs swing up, and up and up

Apparel manufacturing went to 970 businesses from 1,289

Apparel manufacturing went to 970 businesses from 1,289 between 2007 and 2012. Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

New York City may be losing machine operators, but it's gaining margarita mixers.

The city lost 1,054 manufacturing businesses and 32,357 manufacturing jobs between 2007 and 2012, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

And that drain left the city with 5,572 manufacturing establishments.

Dramatic drops were seen in industries such as apparel manufacturing, which went to 970 businesses from 1,289; printing and supporting businesses, down to 656 from 841; and furniture and related product manufacturing, which went to 425 from 528.

Apparel manufacturing jobs, meanwhile, dropped to 16,500 in 2012 from 23,500 in 2007, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Nonetheless, the city still remains a fashion capital.

"The city still has a large concentration of fashion designers, but they are now working for firms that do their production overseas," said Martin Kohli, chief regional economist for the BLS.

The one bright spot in manufacturing involved businesses that produce food. The number of businesses in that category went to 912 from 895.

So what jobs have been replacing those once found in fabrication and metal smithing, textile mills and plants that made garments, leather goods and plastic and rubber products?

Increasingly, "people are making frozen treats -- and pouring margaritas," noted Kohli.

New York City's economy is mainly made up of jobs in the broad "service" sector such as restaurants and hospitality and finance and other knowledge-based positions, noted Kohli,

Though manufacturing may be vanishing, the number of overall jobs in the city has grown to 4.1 million last year, from 3.8 million jobs in 2007, according to BLS data.

A major source of jobs in the city is coming from food services sector, which jumped to 245,100 in 2012 from 191,400 in 2007. Other industries that showed upticks include home health care, computer programming and academia, Kohli said.

A spokesman for the city's Economic Development Corporation, however, said manufacturing jobs in the city have stabilized after a long period of decline.

"The city is committed to supporting the manufacturing industry, which is a source of thousands of quality jobs across all five boroughs," said Ian Fried, spokesman for the EDC. "Our workforce development programs and infrastructure investments are designed to support both current and future manufacturers, ensuring they have the opportunity to remain in New York City."

Many labor experts bemoan the loss of manufacturing jobs, which are typically unionized and offer good wages and benefit packages, whereas most service jobs do not. But not all manufacturing jobs are equal, Kohli noted: many garment manufacturing jobs -- typically held by women -- are poorly paid.

But overall, "the loss of manufacturing results not just in economic losses, but social losses," as increasing numbers of men displaced in the upheaval are no longer able to support themselves, much less families, resulting in a cascade of social problems, said Leonard Rodberg, professor and chair of the Urban Studies program at Queens College.

"New York City was a manufacturing center -- like most of the old Eastern cities -- until the 1950s and '60s," when interstate highways permitted manufacturers to relocate outside urban centers, Rodberg said.

In the 1970s, American cities found their job base further eroded by outsourcing to Latin America and Asia where labor costs were cheap, and technological inventions which wiped out whole labor-intensive job categories.

"The result was a fiscal crisis here and in every other American city" that was once reliant on manufacturing, Rodberg said.

Real estate costs have soared to such lofty heights throughout the city -- once an international center for the printing and textile industries -- that some types of land-intensive manufacturing may not make sense, Rodberg conceded. But many such jobs are still worth fighting for with industrial-friendly zoning, job-training grants and tax breaks to keep and attract manufacturing businesses "like we give to the finance sector," he said.

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