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Where the jobs are: car towns

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The Labor Department says the economy barely added any jobs last month, and the unemployment rate edged up a notch to 9.2 percent. But check what’s going on in the auto manufacturing: another 900 jobs in June, meaning 72,000 more workers are building cars in the U.S. than two years ago.

Americans are buying more cars, and carmakers are putting more people back on the assembly line, as Marketplace’s Jeff Horwich reports.

JEFF HORWICH: Tired of hearing about the jobless recovery? Find a car town.

MICHAEL CHAFFEE: It’s been a crazy few years, but we’re certainly walking proud now.

Michael Chaffee is mayor of Lordstown, Ohio. That’s where GM makes the Chevy Cruze — at the moment, the country’s best-selling car.

CHAFFEE: At the low point we were down to 1,200, 1,400 employees out there. And I believe now we’re approaching 5,000, so it’s been phenomenal the last couple of years.

U.S. auto manufacturing jobs are up about 12 percent from the trough two years ago. Volkswagen and Nissan in Tennessee, Hyundai in Georgia, Ford and GM in the Midwest: They’re expanding to meet demand for compact, fuel efficient models. But analyst Dave Sullivan of AutoPacific says the industry is partly just making up for cuts that went too deep to begin with.

DAVE SULLIVAN: During the “car-pocalypse” a few years ago we saw everyone cut right down to the bone. So a lot of the manufacturing heads we’re seeing added are people that were on layoff already and are now coming back to work.

And Sullivan says many are returning to jobs that pay less than before.

I’m Jeff Horwich for Marketplace.

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