Defying a slump that’s been around for about a decade, Broward factories are suddenly hiring. The 10 percent gain in March could mean a big shift for a battered industry.
The latest employment figures continue one of the biggest turnarounds we’ve seen this year on the hiring front. Broward’s manufacturing industry has seen at least a 9 percent increase in payrolls for the past three months, after an extended slump that basically began when the recession started in 2007.
Since December, Broward manufacturing employment is up 2,400 jobs, an 11 percent gain over 2011 levels. Miami-Dade can only dream of such a turnaround: hiring in that sector was down 2 percent in March, continuing a slump that’s been around for much of the decade.
If you take out the spotty 1 percent gains Miami-Dade’s manufacturing industry saw in early 2011, hiring in that industry has been steadily declining since 1997. Broward manufacturing saw a big hiring gain in 2005, but the recession wiped out that payroll growth.
Ron Drew, head of communications for Broward’s economic development agency, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, said he’s seen a gradual increase in manufacturing thanks to lower costs brought on by the recession. With wages and other business expenses down, companies find they can make things in Broward for close to what they could by out-sourcing it overseas, but enjoy better quality, Drew said.
“Also, we’ve been told the availability of a good workforce is another reason,’’ Drew wrote in an e-mail. “We’re also seeing some local manufacturing companies like MAKO Surgical and Nipro Diagnostics doing really well and expanding their workforce.”
He said there hasn’t been a big manufacturing company that’s moved to Broward and skewed the numbers. If the trend continues throughout the year, it would be a sign of a big rebound in an industry known for good wages.
And if manufacturers find South Florida a more affordable place for a factory, that could eventually mean good news for Broward’s neighbor to the south, too.
The Miami Herald’s Economic Time Machine tracks 60 local indicators in an effort to chart South Florida’s recovery from the Great Recession. By comparing current conditions to where they were before the downturn, the ETM attempts to measure how far back the recession set the economy. The answer so far: September 2002. Visit ETM headquarters at miamiherald.com/economic-time-machine for the latest updates.