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Data Shows Steady Decline in Virginia Manufacturing Jobs

Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service

In the last 20 years, Virginia has lost almost 140,000 manufacturing jobs. That’s a 36 percent decline for a sector that once offered blue collar jobs and formed a staple of the commonwealth’s economy.

Kyaw Khine at the University of Virginia’a Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service says the numbers offer a paradox.

“The jobs related to the manufacturing industry are declining," Khine says. "But the manufacturing occupations are not declining.”  

Some parts of the manufacturing sector are doing well, transportation equipment and food for example. But those are essentially outliers.

For the most part, manufacturing jobs are leaving Virginia. And they are leaving Virginia at a faster rate than they’re leaving the rest of the country. “Jobs are moving to other countries and also automation technology is more extensively used in Virginia and that’s why it can lower down the labor,” Khine says.

Click here for more on Manufacturing Employment from Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service

Most of those jobs are not coming back, according to Khine, especially jobs in textile mills and apparel manufacturing. Those are parts of the sector that have declined the most in the last 20 years.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.
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