By Austen Hufford
This article is being republished as part of our daily
reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the U.S.
print edition of The Wall Street Journal (January 13, 2020).
Manufacturers are paying relocation costs and bonuses to move
new hires across the country at a time of record-low unemployment
and intense competition for skilled workers.
Half a million U.S. factory jobs are unfilled, the most in
nearly two decades, and the unemployment rate is hovering at a
50-year low, the Labor Department said Friday. At the same time,
Americans are moving around the country at the lowest rate in at
least 70 years.
To entice workers to move, manufacturers are raising wages,
offering signing bonuses and covering relocation costs, including
for some hourly positions. They are betting that spending on higher
wages and moving incentives will help them find workers to fill
their backlogs of orders.
Rather than just extending these benefits as part of job offers,
factories are also advertising them in postings to encourage
farther-away candidates to apply. On ZipRecruiter Inc.'s
job-listing site, 1.6% of manufacturing positions include a pledge
to pay moving costs, up from 1% in 2017.
"We've had to get very aggressive with talent acquisition," said
Michael Winn, chief executive of Columbus Hydraulics Co., which
makes parts for Doosan Bobcat Inc. and The Toro Co. "We are having
to draw people in from distant places."
The company since 2018 has made extra cash payments to new hires
to move near its factory in Columbus, Neb., a city of about 20,000
people 90 miles west of Omaha. Charlie Shoup received $2,000 to
move from Salt Lake City to near Columbus, where he runs the
company's technology systems.
"It pretty much gave me enough cash to pay for gas out here, get
myself established with a solid place to live in a not-backwater
part of Omaha, and then I got a couple of shirts with collars on
them," he said. Mr. Shoup, who has a degree in computer
engineering, said that at Columbus he makes more than double the
$13 an hour he made in Utah at an electric bicycle shop.
Manufacturers say they are particularly eager to add moving
reimbursements and payments for specialists such as welders,
engineers and machine programmers. More manufacturing jobs require
such skills as production becomes more automated.
At Caterpillar Inc.'s engine plant in Lafayette, Ind., the
company said electricians and machine maintenance staff are
eligible for $5,000 in moving expenses if they lived at least 75
miles from the plant before being hired.
Lockheed Martin Corp. has moved skilled workers such as
engineers to plants in Texas and California and highlights jobs
that offer relocation benefits on its website. Raytheon Co. is
offering up to $5,000 in moving benefits for a $17-an-hour position
as a machine operator at a factory in Arizona.
The relocation payments and other perks some manufacturers have
added recently coincide with a run of difficulties for the industry
overall. The U.S. factory sector contracted for the fifth
consecutive month in December, according to the Institute for
Supply Management. The industry shed 12,000 jobs in December from
the month before, the Labor Department said.
That weakness stems in part from lower global trade and domestic
energy production as well as Boeing Co.'s decision to first slow,
then halt, production of its 737 MAX. Other manufacturers say
business is strong and that a shortage of skilled workers is
impeding higher production.
New Way Trucks is offering a $1,000 payment to workers who move
near its plant in Scranton, Iowa, as it adds dozens of positions to
close its backlog and decrease turnaround times.
Companies are also raising wages. Wage growth at U.S.
manufacturers reached its highest level since 2016 in December,
rising 3% that month from a year earlier. The inflation rate in
November was 2.1%.
G.H. Tool & Mold, an auto-industry supplier owned by Tooling
Tech Group LLC, increased its starting wage to around $18 an hour
last year from $15 a few years ago. The company also has paid
moving expenses for workers relocating near its factory in
Washington, Mo. Julie Scannell, the company's head of human
resources, posts notices on a Facebook group called "Leaving
Illinois" to draw workers from that depopulating state.
"We are in an era right now that is unlike anything I've seen in
25 years as far as trying to recruit people," Ms. Scannell said.
"We are having to really track them down a little bit and schmooze
them more than we used to."
Lockmaker Allegion PLC flew the families of some skilled machine
operators to its factory in Colorado Springs, Colo., to entice them
to move to the area after it purchased some specialized equipment.
The company also has started grooming employees at an Illinois
plant to perform sophisticated jobs such as programming
"The war on talent: It's there. It's real," said Brad Kendall, a
human-resources executive at Allegion.
Other companies have added smaller sweeteners for new workers,
according to current online job postings. John Zink, a Koch
Industries Inc. manufacturing company in Tulsa, Okla., gives out
free steel-toed boots; a Globus Medical Inc. plant in Audubon, Pa.,
provides workers with YMCA memberships; Whirlpool Corp. is paying
workers at a factory in Findlay, Ohio, a $250 six-month retention
"Employers are getting creative," said Julia Pollak,
ZipRecruiter's labor economist.
Write to Austen Hufford at email@example.com
Corrections & Amplifications Manufacturers are paying
relocation costs and bonuses to move new hires across the country
at a time of record-low unemployment. An earlier version of this
article incorrectly described it as record-low employment. The
article also misspelled Findlay, Ohio, as Finlay. (Jan. 12,
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 13, 2020 02:47 ET (07:47 GMT)
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