Automakers Rev-up for Hiring Blitz

April 15, 2008
Attrition and production increases should boost auto employment demand.

While anticipated baby-boomer retirements and increased productivity by both U.S.-based automakers and international competitors will lead to job openings over the next eight years, the new workforce will be substantially smaller than previous generations, according to the Center for Automotive Research's (CAR) recent report, "Beyond the Big Leave: The Future of U.S. Automotive Human Resources."

More than 115,000 workers are expected to leave the Detroit Three in the United States during the 2008-2016 forecast period, 54.2% of whom will be in Michigan. Between 2008 and 2011, CAR projects that Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC will hire 56,673 new workers, and an additional 20,536 salaried workers by 2016.

The newer but shrunken workforce will come along with different job skills, pay and training, according to interview responses from domestic and international automakers and suppliers. "This massive replacement of auto labor represents an opportunity for many in Michigan and other Midwest states," the report's authors conclude. "Yet the old jobs will, indeed, not come back. Instead, they will be replaced by different jobs involving different tasks and requiring different qualifications and experience. It is vitally important, then, that Michigan and other traditional automotive regions be fully informed as to the scale and timing of this replacement hiring and the specific criteria that will be used to select the new autoworkers of the 21st Century."

While Ford shuts down plants such as this one in Norfolk, Va., anticipated retirements could create auto industry openings.Automakers will seek workers who can demonstrate higher literacy, mathematics and computer skills than were previously required. Most of the companies interviewed say they're utilizing temporary workers to determine whether the new hires have the necessary job skills. But although the Detroit Three say they currently have a surplus of applicants, filling those positions could become more challenging in the future. That's because the high wages and generous benefits packages that attracted employees to the industry before are much more modest. "This means the Detroit Three will now compete directly with their suppliers and other sectors for new hires, and might force these companies to hire more new labor market entrants and less-experienced workers," the study's authors report.

Auto Workers: By The Numbers

Current and forecasted employment by the Detroit Big Three automakers.

241,189 Workers employed in 2007 by the Detroit Big Three

210,542 Workers projected to be employed in 2011

203,219 Workers projected to be employed in 2016

126,800 Production workers employed in 2007

114,619 Production workers projected to be employed in 2016

24,707 Engineering workers employed in 2007

Source: Center for Automotive Research

Hiring Forecast for Detroit Three
U.S. New Hires Through 2011 Through 2016
Total New Hires* 56,673 77,209
Hourly* 38,390 38,848
Skilled Trades† 2,000 2,000
Production 38,390 38,848
Salaried 18,282 38,361
Engineering/Technical 6,078 12,890
Other Salaried 12,204 25,470
*Sums don't include the number of workers transferred from production to skilled trades.
†Transfer from production
Source: Center for Automotive Research
To read the entire study, visit the Center for Automotive Research online at

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About the Author

Jonathan Katz | Former Managing Editor

Former Managing Editor Jon Katz covered leadership and strategy, tackling subjects such as lean manufacturing leadership, strategy development and deployment, corporate culture, corporate social responsibility, and growth strategies. As well, he provided news and analysis of successful companies in the chemical and energy industries, including oil and gas, renewable and alternative.

Jon worked as an intern for IndustryWeek before serving as a reporter for The Morning Journal and then as an associate editor for Penton Media’s Supply Chain Technology News.

Jon received his bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Kent State University and is a die-hard Cleveland sports fan.

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