Geography of the US Auto Manufacturing Industry

Talk of bailing out US automakers has dominated the news recently, and we all know that means Michigan. Michigan is home to roughly a quarter of the country's auto manufacturing jobs, and the industry is in rapid decline there and in Ohio, but the state of automaking employment in the rest of the country may surprise you.

The economies of Michigan, Alabama, Ohio, Indiana, and Missouri are the most highly dependent on auto manufacturing. While Michigan and Ohio have lost more than 43,000 auto jobs since 2001, Indiana actually added almost 3000 over the same time period and Alabama more than doubled its auto industry, adding 8600 jobs.

In fact, the rest of the nation aside from Ohio held about the same number of automobile manufacturing jobs in 2001 as the state of Michigan. While Michigan has shed more than 35% of its employment in the industry, the rest of the country actually held its own over the same period.

One major caveat - this source of BLS data is only current through the end of 2007, so it doesn't quantify the effects of the recent credit market implosion. What it does show is a strong decentralizing trend in the auto manufacturing industry.

Looking at average annual pay, the small vehicle sector in Minnesota leads the way - jobs there average over $100,000. At well over $90k per job in Michigan, you can see what the rapid decline in automaking has contributed to the evisceration of the state economy. In the top four highest paying states - where workers make more than $90,000 on average per year - automakers have cut more than one third of the jobs in those states since 2001.

So while the failures of major automakers would send ripples throughout the North American industrial economy, what we are really contemplating here is doling out support for the declining states of Michigan and Ohio.