Virginia manufacturing employment climbed for a fourth straight year, according to the 2016 Virginia Manufacturers Directory, an industrial database and directory published by Manufacturers' News Inc. (MNI).

MNI reports Virginia gained 1,733 manufacturing jobs from December 2014 to December 2015, and is now home to 6,166 manufacturers employing 336,391 workers.

"Virginia has wide-ranging appeal for manufacturers, ranging from its educated workforce and favorable business environment to its top-notch incentive programs and solid infrastructure," says Tom Dubin, MNI president. "However, like much of the nation, a stronger dollar is putting a dent in growth, with job gains not as strong as in previous years."

Gains were led by the transportation equipment industry, which increased 1.9 percent over the year and has climbed steadily over the past several years, adding 8,329 jobs or 24 percent since December 2009. Transportation equipment ranks as the state's largest sector by number of jobs, employing 43,018.

Food processing, the state's second largest industry by manufacturing employment, also added jobs, up 3 percent to 34,403, while employment in third-ranked printing/publishing fell 3.8 percent and now employs 28,192.

Bright spots for the state include Aerojet Rocketdyne's expansion plans for its Orange site, the opening of Fuji Electric's new assembly plant in Roanoke, and the establishment of Sweden-based Starsprings' facility in Henry County. In addition, Bassett Furniture, shuttered since 2007, restarted production at its new factory in Southside.

Most other Virginia industries saw employment inch up in 2015, including instruments/related products, primary metals, electronics, chemicals, stone/clay/glass, lumber and rubber/plastics.

City data collected by MNI shows Newport News is Virginia's top city by manufacturing employment with 27,686 of the state's industrial jobs. Second-ranked Richmond lost 2.4 percent of its industrial employment and now accounts for 26,351 jobs. Industrial jobs in Lynchburg rose 2.3 percent to 10,350, but declined 3 percent in fourth-ranked Roanoke to 9,552.

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