US aerospace workers are clocking up longer hours and earning more, which is a clear sign that the industry is on the way to recovery, according to data from the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA)

US aerospace has turned the corner, according to figures from the Aerospace Industries Association, based on information from the US Department of Labor.

Statistics show US business is improving, with a steady increase in aerospace employment reported each month to 579,800 jobs in June, after hitting a low of 568,700 in February. The rate of decline over the past decade is illustrated by the fact that total employment in 1994 was 727,500.

Each sector also registered an increase in production jobs, except for guided missiles, space vehicles and parts, for which June was the ninth straight month of decline.

"The interesting thing is that we are starting to see a turnaround statistically," says AIA research director David Napier. "Employment has been falling for years and years and it hit bottom in February. Now it's increasing."

Average weekly hours for production workers in the US aerospace products and parts industry are increasing, both for this year compared with last and month on month for the first half of 2004. Production staff are working an average of 42.5h this year, compared with 41.9h last year. Monthly figures have also been increasing steadily since April.

Weekly overtime hours have also risen over the past two years to an average of 5.2h a week. During the late 1990s, however, production staff worked closer to 7-8h of overtime a week.

"The first thing that shows when business starts to increase is that the existing workers start working longer hours," says Napier. "That's the first sign to the management that they have so much business that they need to hire more staff."

Wages are also increasing steadily, with average weekly earnings for aerospace production workers so far in 2004 totalling $968.60 - a large jump from the 2003 figure of $926.76.

Aircraft engines and engine parts production workers are the best paid, earning an average of $1,114.87 a week in June 2004, while those involved in the production of other aircraft parts and equipment earned the least - more than $200 below the average for the whole industry.

Source: Flight International