Factory jobs still pay well, and have been offering new hires healthier paychecks than they could fetch in other professions.
New hires in manufacturing were bringing home 38 percent more income each month than newly hired employees in other industries at the end of 2011, which is the most recent data available, according to a recent report from the U.S. Commerce Department's Economics and Statistics Administration.
Overall, newly hired and already employed manufacturing workers were making 25 percent more than the workforce as a whole, the study found. The heftier paychecks came from higher wages and more hours of overtime.
Indiana has been adding the better-paying manufacturing jobs at one of the fastest rates in the country. Since July 2009, the state has gained about 62,000 manufacturing jobs, according to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.
Michigan is the only state that's added manufacturing jobs at a faster rate than Indiana, said Patrick Kiely, president of the Indiana Manufacturers Association.
Employment in manufacturing has grown by 14.4 percent in Indiana over the last five years. The state continues to have the country's highest share of manufacturing jobs relative to total private sector jobs.
Nationally, the average earnings for new hires in factory jobs have grown by 3.5 percent since the recession, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. Real earnings were flat for new hires in other industries over the same period.
Wages also have improved for factory workers who were already on the job. The real earnings of already employed manufacturing workers have risen about 2.4 percent since the recession, while the pay of incumbent employees in other industries dropped.
Pay in the manufacturing sector does vary widely by position and skill set. Structural metal fabricators and fitters made an average of $16.31 an hour in Indiana last year, while electrical equipment assemblers pulled in $11.05 an hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Factories offer good jobs to those with skills, such workers who know how to operate automated machine tools, said Mark Maassel, president and chief executive officer of the Northwest Indiana Forum, a regional economic development agency.
"You can raise a family, have an enjoyable life and make a very decent wage," he said.