Factory Jobs Catch Bounce From PPE Manufacturing

By: - July 9, 2020 12:00 am

California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom visits a Rancho Cordova factory June 26 while announcing a state-assisted marketplace to help businesses find protective equipment to buy from local manufacturers. Struggling to regain jobs, factories are shifting to manufacturing new products such as face masks and ventilators. Rich Pedroncelli/The Associated Press

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As factories start bringing back workers laid off at the beginning of the pandemic, some are retooling to meet coronavirus-related demands.

Designetics, a firm near Toledo, Ohio, that makes windshield coating systems, now has about half its 73 workers trained to make custom protective barriers to prevent coronavirus transmission.

The switch started when a local hospital asked for a particular size barrier for ultrasound sessions with expectant mothers. Orders flowed in from grocery stores, restaurants and beauty salons. Even an Tucson, Arizona, art gallery ordered transparent barriers to keep its artwork visible.

“It’s really the big thing right now,” said Designetics President Sydney Spraw. “It’s been a nice addition to what we’ve lost on the automotive side.”

While the company still ships its windshield coating system to more than 60 countries, that part of the business has become unpredictable, Spraw said.

“You can make something and ship it and then the country closes down and it can’t be delivered because there’s literally nobody there to accept it,” Spraw said. “Or the delivery person refused to be screened so they won’t accept it. That’s happened. We have to switch to a different service.”

Manufacturing jobs nationwide are starting to come back from their pandemic nosedive. Falling by more than 1.3 million between February and April, they hit 11.4 million, the lowest number since March 2010, after the Great Recession.

Manufacturing jobs increased in May and June by about 700,000, but remain 6% below the same point in 2019 — about the level they were five years ago as the recovery took hold, according to a Stateline analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

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Tim Henderson
Tim Henderson

Tim Henderson covers demographics for Stateline. He has been a reporter at the Miami Herald, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Journal News.