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Jobs Outlook: Assemblers and Fabricators




Employment of assemblers and fabricators is expected to decline through the year 2012, reflecting increasing automation and the shift of assembly to countries with lower labor costs. As manufacturers strive to improve precision and productivity, automated machinery increasingly will be used to perform work more economically and more efficiently. Technological advances should continue raising the productivity of assembly workers and adversely affecting their employment. Many job openings will result from the need to replace workers leaving this large occupational group.

The effects of automation will be felt more among some types of assemblers and fabricators than among others. Automated manufacturing systems are expensive, and a large volume of repetitive work is required to justify their purchase. Also, where the assembly parts involved are irregular in size or location, new technology only now is beginning to make inroads. For example, much assembly in the aerospace industry is done in hard-to-reach locations—inside airplane fuselages or gear boxes, for example—which are unsuited to robots; as a result, aircraft assemblers will not be easily replaced by automated processes, although employment of aircraft assemblers is still expected to decline due to the projected employment decline in the aerospace industry. On the other hand, automation increasingly will be used in the precision assembly of electronic goods, in which a significant number of electronics assemblers are employed.

Many producers send their assembly functions to countries where labor costs are lower. This trend in assembly, promoted by more liberal trade and investment policies, results in shifts in the composition of America’s manufacturing workforce. Decisions by American corporations to move assembly to other nations should limit employment growth for assemblers in some industries, such as electronics assembly, but a free trade environment also may lead to growth in the export of goods assembled in the United States.