Mid-pay jobs stable in county despite national decline


The middle-class workforce is said to be disappearing nationally, but in Aiken County, at least one career field offering mid-level salaried positions is still one of the top job providers in the area.

According to the Associated Press, middle-class jobs across the country are disappearing, and it’s been reported that they aren’t coming back. Those jobs offered annual wages ranging from $38,000 to $68,000 nationally.

In Aiken County, the third-largest job provider was the manufacturing industry with an average annual wage of $57,824 in 2012. A total of 6,772 out of more than 69,000 employed residents in the county worked in that industry last year, according to the S.C. Department of Employment & Workforce.

Will Williams, director of Economic Development Partnership, said over the last five years, local manufacturers already had operations that were quite lean and streamlined.

Williams said he hasn’t noticed any dramatic growth or decline over those five years. He added that he feels that a larger metropolitan area is probably feeling the pain of disappearing middle-class jobs more than in a place like Aiken County.

Williams cited expanding manufacturers like Bridgestone and Tognum America, which will be good economic engines for Aiken County.

“We continue to attract quality manufacturers who offer very good wages, so we should see that continue to grow at a measured pace,” Williams said.

Unfortunately, according to the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce, it’s projected that there will be an approximately 7 percent decrease in manufacturing jobs throughout the state by 2018.

Administrative, support, waste management and remediation services were grouped together as the number one job provider in Aiken County last year. With a total of 9,574 employees and an average annual wage of $70,200, those job providers fall right above the national middle class wage line. The Department of Employment & Workforce expects jobs to increase in this field by 10 percent by 2018 across South Carolina.

In 2012, the second-largest field of employment in Aiken County was retail trade, but the average annual wage was under the middle class line at $22,308.

Technological advancements and sending jobs overseas have been named as the main contributors to middle class job loss.

Dr. Michael Ritchie, USC Aiken professor of management, said both technology and outsourcing have been attractive solutions to businesses who have looked at ways to save money.

He added that no business is purely impervious to the advancements made in technology, though some, like healthcare, which is more hands-on, aren’t as affected like businesses in communications.

“It’s kind of a catch 22,” Ritchie said. “We want technology. We’ve always wanted technology. It’s great that we can use technology, but when something gets a little cheaper, that means somebody loses their job.”

Ritchie said that manufacturing took quite a hit from both technology and outsourcing but he feels that the industry is starting to stabilize. Some companies, like General Electric, even reversed some of its outsourcing positions, bringing them back to the U.S., Ritchie said.

According to the Associated Press, half of the 7.5 million jobs lost in the U.S. during the Great Recession were middle class.

Out of the 3.5 million jobs created since the recession ended in 2009, only 2 percent are in mid-pay industries.