The move to send manufacturing jobs to the South - which had been gaining steam for some 20 years - may have have fallen in popularity in the last decade, with the Detroit metropolitan area reporting the second-highest gain of manufacturing jobs in the nation.
The positive manufacturing staffing news is one of many findings outlined in the latest report released by the Brookings Institute - a Washington think tank that analyzes manufacturing jobs and earnings in the country's 100 largest metro areas.
According to The Detroit News, the last two years of job growth in the region may not hold enough weight to reverse a two-decade trend, but the data still suggest that companies may not be as attracted to hefty subsidies as once thought. Many of the companies are offering wages that are well below those offered to union workers in the Midwest.
"There are lot more places that offer low wages than there use to be," said Howard Wial, a fellow in the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program and one of the authors of the report, "Locating American Manufacturing: Trends in the Geography of Production." The organization touts the report as the first detailed look at the shift in manufacturing jobs that took place between 2000 and 2011.
Economists around the country agree that the low cost of manufacturing in Michigan - coupled with higher labor and shipping costs associated with overseas business - is contributing to the pickup in manufacturing hiring.
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show the South attracted huge swaths of manufacturers to the region between 1980 and 2000 while Detroit, the Midwest and the Northeast witnessed a disheartening exodus of manufacturing jobs. Since 2000, 423,000 jobs in the manufacturing industry disappeared as companies flocked south, the media outlet stated.
But those gains, the Brookings Institute contends, have been nullified as manufacturers return to the Midwest. Between 2000 and 2011, the South lost 33 percent of its manufacturing jobs. In the last two years, the jump in manufacturing hiring in Detroit and the rest of the Midwest has trumped that seen in the South, according to the news provider.
According to the Detroit Free Press, the report encourages economic development officials to capitalize on the shifting trend and draft supportive manufacturing strategies and policies that can help regions further grow their manufacturing industries. These outlines should focus on the skills of a region's workforce, its natural resources and a number of other factors.
"Efforts to create a cluster of industries without some pre-existing heritage in the area are likely to fail," the report warned.
The report found Detroit currently has the sixth-largest number of manufacturing jobs, 187,821 of which were added in 2010. Slightly more than one out of every 10 jobs in the Detroit metropolitan area is in the manufacturing industry.
Detroit cracked the top 25 metro areas in terms of highest-paying positions, with the average manufacturing salary found to be $67,804, higher than the average wage of all jobs in Detroit at $50,266, the media outlet stated.
Charleston, South Carolina, grabbed the top spot on the Brookings Institute's list, with a 14 percent surge in manufacturing jobs in the past two years.
Detroit's auto industry helped create as many as 25,000 manufacturing jobs in 2011, following 19,000 new jobs in 2010, according to a separate University of Michigan economic study.