The metalworking industry in the United States has taken a hit over the past several years, in stepping with the recent economic downturn. In 2005, in Ohio alone, production worker employment in metal industries had dropped to 38,484, an over 42 percent drop from 66,600 employed in 1995. In Pennsylvania, the story was eerily similar: production worker employment in metal industries underwent an approximate 38 percent drop, from 55, 600 in 1995 to 34,522 in 2005. In 2007, metalworking jobs decreased by 39 percent. However, in the face of decreasing employment, shipments and industry production have remained relatively consistent.
As prices began to rise at the beginning of 2004, the metalworking industry underwent increases in productivity and the value of shipments. Despite the national drops in employment rates between 1995 and 2005, national shipment rates only decreased by 8.5 percent. Because of the high demand for steel form countries undergoing economic growth, such as China and India, between 1996 and 2003, the relative price of US manufactured steel increased dramatically which led to an industry boost. During this time period, the price of US steel mill products increased around 59.8 percent.
As a result of the high demand for steel and the subsequent increase in unit price, workers experienced an overall wage increase between 1995 and 2004—in Ohio, wages increased 10.3 percent between 1995 and 2005, and in Pennsylvania wages increased 7.0 percent during the same time period—however, because overall employment is decreasing, overall wages are equally affected.
In addition to employment dips, by 2006 the metalworking industry confronted issues surrounding the safer use and disposal of metalworking fluids. As a result of new regulations regarding the use, transportation, health, and safety of metalworking fluids, manufacturers attempted to clean up the process and reduce harmful bi-products, while remaining on top of technological advancements that serve the metalworking industry.