U.S. auto sector employment at highest level since ’08

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — The U.S. auto industry added 6,700 jobs in January, hitting its highest level since March 2008.

Strong auto sales are fueling continued job growth at automakers, parts manufacturers — as well as auto dealers. Auto sales rose 13.7 percent in January in part because of low gasoline prices increasing demand for trucks and other large vehicles.

Automakers and parts companies now employ 913,200 people in the United States — and account for nearly one-third of all new manufacturing jobs in January. The industry is up by nearly 300,000 jobs since it hit bottom in June 2009, with just 622,000 people on payrolls. The auto sector has added nearly 67,000 jobs over the last year.

Auto dealers are also adding jobs, and were up 2,900 jobs in January to 1.21 million — its highest level since June 2008. Dealers have added about 43,000 jobs over the last year.

Last year, auto sales hit the highest level since 2006.

U.S. sales of cars and light trucks totaled 16.52 million — the first time they crossed the 16 million mark since 2006. That was nearly 1 million more sales than in 2013. Auto sales are expected to rise for a sixth straight year in 2015, but at a slower rate. But auto production in the United States hit its highest level since 2005 last year.

Ford Motor Co. said this week it is adding 1,550 jobs — 650 of those in Michigan — through March as production expands.

Of the 1,550 new jobs, 500 will be added at Dearborn Stamping and Dearborn Diversified; 150 jobs will go to Sterling Axle; and 900 will go to Ford's Kansas City Assembly Plant. All will support production of the 2015 F-150.

All of the new hires have already been identified, Ford said. They will fill various positions in the plants and will start work by the end of March.

Dearborn Truck Plant recently added a third shift to make the aluminum-bodied F-150, and Ford's Kansas City Assembly Plant recently installed the new equipment needed to build it.

Overall, the U.S. economy added 257,000 jobs in January, while the unemployment rate rose by 0.1 percent to 5.7 percent.