Merced’s manufacturing sector named fastest growing in nation

Merced Sun-Star
By Thaddeus Miller

May 28, 2015

Nowhere in the country did manufacturing jobs grow faster in the last year than in Merced, according to a report released this week by a data-crunching website.

The Merced area increased its manufacturing jobs by 26.2 percent when comparing January’s numbers to the same time last year, which was head and shoulders above the growth seen in all the 321 other communities in the report.

“It is a huge number,” said Chris Engle, the president of Headlightdata.com. “(Merced) had the fastest percentage growth of any metro in the country.”

The Austin, Texas-based website, which focuses on information for economic and workforce development, found that the next closest city to Merced in manufacturing growth was Danville, Ill., with a 14.9 percent increase. The only other California city to make the list was Napa, which rounded out the top 10 with a 9.8 percent increase.

At about 2,200 new manufacturing jobs, the increase was significant for Merced County, which had 99,800 total jobs in January, according to the Employment Development Department.

That’s not to say that Merced created more net jobs in the manufacturing sector than every other city, as California cities like San Jose and San Francisco added 5,600 and 3,700, respectively. But, those cities had much larger sectors to begin with.

“Manufacturing has been doing quite well in the U.S.,” Engle said. “It is growing almost as fast as the rest of the economy, which is a remarkable feat.”

The number of people employed and involved in the workforce in Merced County has continued to increase since January, according to the latest numbers from EDD.

Manufacturing is the largest sector in the Merced area at 10,600 jobs in January, which has since grown to 11,000, according to the latest numbers from EDD. Those jobs include meat, produce and dairy processing, but also include metal manufacturing.

Mark Hendrickson, Merced County director of community and economic development, said agriculture-related jobs continue to be Merced County’s bread and butter. He said the new jobs in the last year likely came from a combination of food and metal manufacturers.

“That’s a compliment to each of our cities and to the county for being a place where business can find success,” he said. “That’s exciting for us and we’re hopeful we’ll continue to see gains.”

On the other side of the coin, Modesto was the fourth worst performing manufacturing sector on net jobs, losing 1,200 manufacturing jobs and shrinking by 6 percent, according to the report. Still Modesto’s jobs grew 3 percent overall.

AT A GLANCE
Merced County labor statistics

Total workforce 2014: 113,800

Total workforce 2015: 116,000

Manufacturing sector in Jan. 2014: 8,400

Manufacturing sector in Jan. 2015: 10,600

Increase: 26.2 percent

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Thaddeus Miller: 209-385-2453, @thaddeusmiller