On some days and even months, and depending on the statistics you consult, U.S. manufacturing is seeing gains, albeit ones barely moving the arrow on the plus side of the scale.
The building I work in downtown Denver is largely vacant after 5 p.m.
Most buildings in many cities across the country are like this.
This is because the U.S. is a first shift kind of country.
Pre-globalization workforce landscapes often had 24/7 shifts of workers on hand to accommodate the good deal of manufacturing the U.S. once engaged in.
China is a three shift country providing goods for the U.S., Sweden and much of the rest of the world.
Since the U.S. has moved to a service-based economy, it is no longer performing this lead manufacturing role.
Many shift workers here get paid a premium or shift differential on top of their regular hourly rate for working second and third shift.
Although I do not know the official reason for companies providing this increase adjustment for their second and third shift workers, I do know it is very much merited.
First shift workers get to function in a 9 to 5 world because of the shifts of workers that follow them both in this country and abroad.
I am one of those workers in this country.
We second and third shifters have to schedule time off if we need to attend a parent teacher conference or want to see our kids’ plays or piano recitals.
You are out of luck if you want to go out to see a movie on a week night, too.
How about that concert you wanted to attend on a Wednesday evening? Same deal.
How about a dinner out with your sweetie on a week night? Nuh uh.
Some first shift workers would say we knew what we were signing up for when we agreed to work second or third shift, that we get shift differential. Some tell us we should be happy to even have a job.
To those first shift folks who might tell us that, I would suggest first shift should be thankful for their second and third shift brethren—whether here or on the other side of the world. For without them, their very first shift lifestyle existence would be threatened.
An interesting irony is that during second or third shift in this country, it is first shift somewhere in another.
Companies and businesses that ran three shifts of workers pre-globalization days, often practiced the concept of shift rotation to keep workers fresh and foster an appreciation for the pros, cons and sacrifices each shift had. This kept morale, respect, appreciation and productivity high by allowing each worker a taste of what was found on all shifts—good and bad.
This is part of building flexibility into your staffing.
But since many U.S. companies no longer have anything other than a first shift presence here, the advantages to shift rotation are moot. This inflexible schedule remains a hardship, unfortunately, for those workers still on second and third in 24/7, non-shift rotating environments.
Many countries with three shifts of workers on the other side of the world are still practicing shift rotation.
If you are fortunate enough to work first shift in one of the dwindling three shift companies in America, do something nice to support and/or show your appreciation for your second and third shift counterparts.
Expressing your gratitude will be one of the most thoughtful things you can do for your co-worker.