The first quarterly Charmilles/NTMA survey of job openings and starting wages for skilled production employees showed strong results in August/September 2005. Job openings, with an average starting wage of $16.34 per hour, equaled 4.7 percent of total shop employment. The online survey targeted the NTMA membership list and achieved a 25 percent response rate (300 responses/1,200 valid email addresses).
This high level of job openings is consistent with the current strength in manufacturing indicated by the NTMA Business Conditions Survey and Customer Forecast Reports as well as private data from the Charmilles Machining Business Activity Index. It is also in line with indicators of recent improved financial stability of the industry as measured by the Charmilles/USBEF Machining Industry Financial Strength Index.
The impact of this shortage of skilled technicians extends beyond the machining industries. By immediately reducing production capacity and limiting the longer-term ability of manufacturers to implement new and more competitive technologies, the shortage contributes to the balance of trade deficit and causes a shortfall in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). If the 4.7 percent vacancy rate is consistent throughout the U.S.'s approximately 750,000 "machinist" positions, there are openings for about 35,000 machinists. At the NTMA average of $120,000 in sales per employee per year, having these machinists available would cause a $4.2 billion decrease in the trade deficit and a corresponding increase in the U.S. GDP. Allowing for manufacturing's approximately 2.4x multiplier effect, the GDP might be $10.1 billion per year higher.
These are probably conservative estimates since some projections place the total number of machinists at closer to one million. The variance depends on how you choose to define the job of "machinist."
Future surveys will include data from groups outside NTMA (e.g. Chicago's Tooling & Manufacturing Association) to increase the validity of the results. We will also explore other manufacturing workforce topics like: expected workforce losses due to retirement and the primary machining processes or skills sought by employers. For additional information, see the full report at