Tennessee manufacturing employment inched up for a sixth straight year, according to new data collected by Manufacturers' News Inc. (MNI). MNI reports the state added 3,251 jobs over the past year, a 1 percent increase, and is now home to 6,517 manufacturers employing 382,972 people. Manufacturing employment in Tennessee has grown at a steady clip over the past six years, rising 5 percent since October 2011.
"Tennessee’s pro-business environment and generous incentive programs have helped attract a great deal of foreign investment, and existing manufacturers are generally thriving," said Tom Dubin, MNI president. "However, Tennessee’s post-recession growth has largely been based on the auto industry, which now shows signs of slowing, while competition with neighboring states continues to be tough."
For the first time since the recession, Tennessee’s transportation equipment industry shed jobs, down 1.2 percent over the past 12 months. Job gains in the sector had previously led the state’s industrial job growth, increasing by 32 percent or 12,600 workers between 2011 and 2016. Transportation equipment still ranks as the state’s top sector by number of factory jobs, employing 51,981, or about 14 percent of the state’s manufacturing workers.
However, it was a good year for auto suppliers, with the grand opening of South Korea-based Hankook Tires’ first U.S. plant in Clarksville, which helped boost employment in the state’s rubber/plastics industry. Finland-based Nokian Tyre broke ground on a new $360 million tire plant in Dayton, which will eventually add another 400 workers to that sector.
South Korea-based LG Electronics also broke ground on a washing machine manufacturing facility in Clarksville, while China-based Sinomax established its first U.S. plant in Davidson County for manufacturing memory foam bedding products. In addition, Tyson Foods unveiled plans to establish a $300 million poultry-processing plant in Tonganoxie, which will eventually employ 1,500.
Manufacturing job gains in Tennessee were spread across multiple sectors and were strongest in furniture/fixtures, rubber/plastics and electronics. Primary metals, textiles/apparel and food processing each grew by 3 percent, while fabricated metals and paper products grew by 1 percent.
Industrial employment losses were reported in the stone/clay/glass, industrial machinery and printing/publishing industries. All other industries remained stable.
Manufacturing locations closing in Tennessee included Timkin’s Pulaski bearings plant, which shifted production to other facilities, and Nelson Global products, which shuttered its Clinton facility. Also notable was the closure of RR Donnelly’s Gallatin plant, which ceased operations after 42 years.
Industrial jobs in Memphis rose 1.2 percent over the year, with the city ranking first in the state for factory employment with 33,911 jobs. Second-ranked Nashville also gained industrial jobs, up 4.7 percent to 28,961 workers. Chattanooga jobs held steady at 21,898, while factory jobs declined 2.3 percent in fourth-ranked Knoxville to 14,482.
For more information, visit www.mni.net.