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Pennsylvania Manufacturers Dispute Rosy Jobs Report

There are dueling employment reports on Pennsylvania's manufacturing sector—one's outlook is positive, but the other's is a bit more sour.

Manufacturer's News, Inc. of Illinois reported this week that "industrial employment in Pennsylvania remained virtually unchanged" from June 2010 to June 2011. The news release said Pennsylvania bucked the national trend and lost fewer than 2,600 industrial jobs over that time, leaving a grand total of more than 800,000 jobs.

But the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association said that report used an outdated way of counting manufacturing jobs, and the state's manufacturing sector actually lost about 11,000 jobs.

PMA Executive Director David Taylor said the MNI report used the Standard Industrial Code (SIC) method of counting jobs.

He says that code was abandoned by the U.S. government in 1997, replaced by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"The old SIC code would have included a lot of forklift jobs, warehouse- and distribution center-type jobs as 'manufacturing,'" said Taylor, "whereas under the NAICS, the manufacturing employment number really is direct, plant-floor manufacturing employment and the direct administration."

The loss of 11,000 jobs would amount to nearly 2% of the state's current total of about 573,000 NAICS manufacturing jobs.

Using the NAICS code, Taylor said the state has lost nearly 40% of its manufacturing workforce since 1990, when there were almost a million such jobs in the state.

That's due to better technology, better productivity, and increased competition from other states and nations, said Taylor.

He said Pennsylvania manufacturers still contribute a greater-than-average amount to the state's economy, accounting for 13% of the Gross State Product at $75 billion.