July 29, 2012

Machinists Do Not Make $100,000

 I just read another misleading article about high paying jobs that don't actually exist.   The piece in question is titled A $100,000 Factory Job. What's Uncool About That? from CNN Money via Yahoo.   As you can see right in the title of the article they are talking about $100,000 factory jobs.   But the problem with the article is that they don't point to any single such job making $100,000 or substantiate that $100,000 figure in any way whatsoever.

People do not make $100,000 in factory jobs

The article says :

"An aspiring machinist -- a popular factory job -- can start training at 18 and then do a one- or two-year manufacturing apprenticeship. In five years, he or she could be making more than $50,000. In 10 years, that could double to $100,000."

Sounds great.   But where is this $100,000 paying job?

Then just after that bit the article then say :

"Sedlak's [a company owner in Baltimore] top worker makes $30 an hour. And annual pay at his company ranges between $70,000 and $80,000 with overtime. In 31 years, only three workers have retired from his factory."

I don't understand how they quote a guy saying his "top" worker makes $30 an hour or between $70,000 and $80,000 with overtime and then talk about people making $100,000.    $30 an hour is not $100,000 a year unless you're working like 60 hours a week making overtime pay.    But they say that pay at the company ranges between $70,000 and $80,000 with overtime.   I don't see anything about $100,000 at all.
 Lets look at some real numbers.    The BLS has wage figures for machinists.

Employment estimate and mean wage estimates for this occupation:

Employment (1) Employment
RSE (3)
Mean hourly
Mean annual
wage (2)
Wage RSE (3)
368,510 1.0 % $19.48 $40,520 0.3 %
Percentile wage estimates for this occupation:
Percentile 10% 25% 50%
75% 90%
Hourly Wage $11.73 $14.99 $18.86 $23.17 $28.49
Annual Wage (2) $24,390 $31,180 $39,220 $48,190 $59,260

From that we can see that 90% of machinists make under $60,000.   I see no evidence of anyone making $100,000 a year.  Not even close in fact. 

Furthermore the outlook for the occupation in general isn't great.    The BLS forecasts that jobs for machinists and die makers will grow 7% in the 10 year period from 2010 to 2020 which is 'slower than average'.

Now its not as if I'm saying these aren't good jobs.   Making $40-$60k a year without college is pretty good wage.   But the pay is not $100,000 like the article claims.   Theres a giant difference between claiming people make $100,000 and actually seeing wages up to $60,000 or $80,000 levels at the top.   I mean would you like it if you were promised a $100,000 wage but actually ended up making $60,000?  I think not.

I don't know why news articles do this kind of thing, but I would challenge them to substantiate what percentage of machinists make  $100,000 a year or more.   I would hazard a guess that if any machinists make that much its a very small handful.    Now of course theres always exception to the rules and with over 300,000 machinists in the nation I'm willing to bet that you could probably find me one or two who did make over $100,000.    But if 90% of people make under $60,000 then its not realistic to act as if $100,000 wages are somehow common or normal.

Why don't people want manufacturing jobs?

The article also discusses the topic of 'why' people don't want to work in manufacturing.   They talk about a negative media image of manufacturing jobs.    They quote someone saying that 'public school' tells you that you have to got to college to succeed.  In my humble opinion those are stupid reasons and far from the real reason.    

The primary reason people don't want to work manufacturing jobs is that the American manufacturing industry has been dying a slow and painful death for decades.

Here is the reason people don't want to work in manufacturing :

Or better yet consider THIS reason :

The data in those two charts is from the BLS.

As you can see from the charts, the number of manufacturing jobs and the % of people working in manufacturing has been going down steadily in the past 30 years.  

You can't look at those charts and then tell me the reason people don'  'want to work in manufacturing is due to 'negative media portrayal'.    The fact is that manufacturing jobs have been cut steadily and people generally know better than to try and jump into a dying industry.    Everybody 'knows' that manufacturing jobs are being shipped overseas to countries like China with cheap labor.  

Bottom Line :   There are not $100,000 paying jobs in manufacturing.   People generally don't look to join the manufacturing industry since the industry is shrinking.

[edit note : The article in question was talking about machinists specifically and used the general term 'factory jobs' then I expanded that to 'manufacturing jobs'.   There are of course people in the manufacturing industry who make higher wages such as management and professionals like engineers.  But the context of the article is 'factory jobs' and specifically machinists and those are the kind of jobs I was referring to. ]



  1. CNN wants an attention grabbing head line. "$60,000 factory job in a shrinking industry, what's uncool about that" just isn't a good title. :)

  2. Want to run the numbers and send them a correction request? http://cps.ipums.org/cps/

    THAT would be kind of hilairous, haha.

  3. Sorry but I do....

    1. What was never said was the amount of hours. I've averaged 52-55 hours per week for the last 5 years with no end in sight. Compound that @ $34.00 an hour and theres that magic number and then some.

  4. Anonymous, Well then when I said : "I'm willing to bet that you could probably find me one or two who did make over $100,000." I guess I won my bet with myself.

    Good for you that you have a good paying job. I'm sure you agree that you're wage level is NOT the norm as clearly indicated by the BLS statistics. If the article in question had interviewed you then I'd have less complaint. The problem is that the article talks about $100,000 jobs then cites a shop that pays $60,000 to $80000. And it talks like $100,000 jobs are common but they are not. You and other machinists you know may make $100,000 or more but the national averages are FAR less and much less than 10% of people make that kind of money.

    Its misleading to tell people that factory jobs pay $100,000 in general without citing valid statistics.



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