Job Outlook for Welders

Job Outlook for Welders*
Although much of the welding done in manufacturing settings is increasingly being automated, there will still be a significant demand for welders in other areas, making for good employment opportunities through 2006, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) 1998-99 Ocupational Outlook Handbook.

The BLS develops national employment projections every other year. The figures included here come from the projection cycle covering the 1996-2006 period. The figures covering the 1998-2008 period are scheduled to be published in the November Monthly Labor Review. The table shows the number of welders and cutters employed in a variety of industries sorted by 2006 projected employment.

Welders, cutters and welding machine operators held about 453,000 jobs in 1996. Of those, nearly two out of five welders were employed in six states: Texas, California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Illinois. All are states heavily dominated by automobile and fabricated metals products manufacturing or by the petroleum and chemical industry.

According to the BLS, employment for welders and cutters is expected to increase slowly, while that of welding machine operators should remain unchanged through 2006. Even though production should increase, the number of welding machine operators is expected to remain level because of greater use of robots and other automated welding techniques. "Manual welders, however, especially those with a wide variety of skills, will increasingly be needed for sophisticated fabrication tasks and repair work that do not lend themselves to automation," according to the Handbook. Many of the job openings for welders will result from the need to replace experienced workers. The aging of the nation's infrastructure, which means more products needing repair or replacement, will also provide opportunities.

Employment in several related occupations - boilermakers, machinists and tool programmers, millwrights, and tool and die makers - are expected to decline slightly through 2006, yet the Bureau reports skilled applicants should have good job opportunities. Again, many of these openings will result from the need to replace experienced workers who move to other occupations or leave the work force. Employment of sheet metal workers is expected to increase about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2006 because of increased demand for sheet metal installations as more industrial, commercial and residential structures are built. Sheet metal workers held about 110,000 jobs in the construction industry in 1996.


INDUSTRY 1996 Employment PROJECTED 2006 EMPLOYMENT CHANGE, 1996 - 2006
    Percent   Percent      
  Number Distribution Number Distribution Number Percent
Total, all industries 352,042 100.00 393.701 100/00 41.650 11.8
Fabricated structural metal products 36,414 10.34 39,045 10.18 2630 7.2
Self-employed workers 26,606 7.56 27,670 7.21 1064 4.0
Motor vehicles and equipment 22,451 6.38 24,916 6.49 2465 11.0
Construction and related machinery 20,397 5.79 22,683 5.91 2286 11.2
All other transportation equipment 11,238 3.19 13,910 3.63 2673 23.8
Heavy construction, except highway and street 12,086 3.43 13,410 3.49 1324 11.0
Ship and boat building and repair 12,536 3.56 12,548 3.27 12 0.1
Miscellaneous fabricated metal products 7290 2.07 7470 1.95 180 2.5
Aircraft and parts 2662 0.76 3277 0.85 616 23.1
Manufactured products 2112 0.60 2209 0.58 96 4.6
All other primary metals 1094 0.31 1113 0.29 20 1.8

* Reported in the Welding Journal, 06/1999.

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