Good news continues on jobless claims

The good news on jobs keep coming.

New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits were unchanged last week, holding at the lowest level since the early days of the 2007-2009 recession and giving a fresh sign the battered labor market is healing.

Workers filed 351,000 initial claims for state unemployment benefits, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The prior week’s figure was revised up to 351,000 from the previously reported 348,000.

The last two weekly readings have been the lowest since March 2008. The four-week moving average for new claims, a measure of labor market trends, fell 7,000 to 359,000 —also the lowest since March 2008.

Get that resume out again!

The need for skilled factory workers

There are plenty of factory jobs opening up as the economy recovers, but employers are having trouble filling them.

What’s missing are the skilled workers needed to fill them.

A metal-parts factory here has been searching since the fall for a machinist, an assembly team leader and a die-setter. Another plant is offering referral bonuses for a welder. And a company that makes molds for automakers has been trying for seven months to fill four spots on the second shift.

“Our guys have been working 60 to 70 hours a week, and they’re dead. They’re gone,” said Corey Carolla, vice president of operations at Mach Mold, a 40-man shop in Benton Harbor, Mich. “We need more people. The trouble is finding them.”

Through a combination of overseas competition and productivity gains, the United States has lost nearly 4 million manufacturing jobs in the past 10 years. But many manufacturers say the losses have not yielded a surplus of skilled factory workers.

Instead, as automation has transformed factories and altered the skills needed to operate and maintain factory equipment, the laid-off workers, who may be familiar with the old-fashioned presses and lathes, are often unqualified to run the new.

Compounding the problem is a demographic wave. At some factories, much of the workforce consists of baby boomers who are nearing retirement. Many of the younger workers who might have taken their place have avoided the manufacturing sector because of the volatility and stigma of factory work, as well as perceptions that U.S. manufacturing is a “dying industry.”

“Politicians make it sound like there’s a line out front of workers with a big sign saying ‘No more jobs,’ ” said Matt Tyler, chief executive of a precision metal company in New Troy, Mich. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

This is one of many reasons why job training has to be a priority for government spending. We need more skilled factory workers, along with more engineers.

If you’re looking for a job, keep this in mind. With some training you could land a well-paying job in manufacturing.

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