Virginia Out In Front When It Comes To Shipyard Jobs, Income

(NEWPORT NEWS DAILY PRESS 27 JUN 13) … Michael Welles Shapiro

By one measure Virginia is still the top dog when it comes to shipbuilding and ship repairs, and the state reaps the economic benefits associated with that industry.

More than 63,500 jobs in Virginia are directly or indirectly tied to the shipbuilding and repair industry, according to a study released by the Maritime Administration at a conference in Long Beach, Calif., last week.

That’s more than 26,000 jobs ahead of California, a state that dwarfs Virginia in size and also has significant shipbuilding activity. And it’s more than double any other state in the country.

In terms of direct employment, MARAD estimate Virginia yards employ 26,730 people, or one in four shipbuilders nationwide. That translates to $1.9 billion, based on a calculation that includes wages, salaries and benefits.

In addition to the rankings, the study shows that across shipbuilding, an average worker income of $73,000 is higher than the national average. That income in turn has a multiplier effect, creating jobs in maritime communities and even in landlocked parts of the country where shipyard suppliers are located.

“Shipyards create quality jobs and support economic growth far beyond our nation’s ports and waterways,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a MARAD news release accompanying the study.

“This report shows that wherever you live across the country, Americans benefit from opportunities generated by the shipbuilding and repair industry,” LaHood said.

The nation’s largest shipyard, Newport News Shipbuilding, a Huntington Ingalls Industries subsidiary and the country’s sole manufacturer of aircraft carrier, employs the lion’s share of Virginia’s shipbuilders. A recent company estimate says the yard has more than 22,000 employees.

Other states with large amounts of shipbuilding employment:

  • 12,970 — Louisiana, home to Huntington Ingalls’ Avondale shipyard. Data used in the study dates to 2011, after Northrop Grumman Corp. announced its intention to close Avondale but when much of the facility’s workforce was still in place.
  • 10,100 — Mississippi, home of Huntington Ingalls Gulf Coast operations and its Ingalls Shipbuilding yard.
  • 8,870 — Connecticut, home to General Dynamics Electric Boat, which along with Newport News Shipbuilding produces Virginia-class submarines for the Navy.
  • 8,100 — California, home to General Dynamics NASSCO, which owns shipyards in San Diego and Norfolk.

“In 2011, the nation’s more than 300 shipyards directly provided more than 107,000 jobs, $7.9 billion in labor income to the national economy and contributed $9.8 billion in Gross Domestic Product,” MARAD’s news release says.

Tim Colton, who writes the popular Maritime Memos blog, complimented the report but said the conclusion about average income of shipbuilders was “somewhat misleading” because of a wage disparity between shipyard white collar and blue collar workers.

“(W)e have a relatively high proportion of well-paid salaried personnel, while our hourly employees are not overpaid at all,” he wrote.

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