The Big 3 are Hiring and This Time It's Different

In the last 3 months as I've been covering a series of announcements by the Big 3 about their plans to hire workers and add shifts, I continually hear one comment from viewers and readers: "Are these jobs gonna stick or will these people be laid off in a few years?"

It's a fair question given what we've seen from GM, Ford, and Chrysler over the last 20 years and especially over the last five years. There has been a slow, painful drain of jobs as the Big 3 cut shifts and closed plants.

Paul Sancya

But after bottoming out last year, Detroit is actually adding jobs this year.

The latest announcement coming from Fordwhich is transforming its plant in Louisville, Kentucky. Adding 1,800 jobs and eventually running two shifts. All together, since the beginning of 2009 Ford has either added or announced plans to add more than 6,400 jobs. It's a welcome change, and due largely to the fact demand for new cars and trucks is building in the U.S.

Still, there are skeptics rolling their eyes and saying, "Big deal? The Big 3 will eventually cut jobs when demand slows down."

Maybe not.

While nobody can guarantee these plants will maintain their employment levels, the plants adding jobs are far different than they used to be. Why? In part because they are increasingly more flexible and ready to change the type of vehicle being built based on what's selling and what's not. In theory, it should mean the plants (and auto makers) are better positioned to ride out the ups and downs of auto sales.

I know there are many people watching these hiring announcements and wondering how many of the 250,000 jobs cut by the auto industry in the last decade will come back. Sad to say, it won't be as many as you'd like. The fact is, this industry is now much more efficient. It can build and sell more cars and trucks while employing fewer people. So even as demand ramps up, many of the plants that have been shut down, will not re-open. But those plants that remain, like the Ford plant in Louisville, will be run more efficiently and often with second shifts.

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