US: auto sales gains spur increased hiring at the Detroit Three image

GM, Ford and Chrysler have managed to stage a dramatic comeback form the grim years of the last economic depression – a situation that reflects both on sales and their employment levels.

Back in 2008-2009 both GM and Chrysler went through a painful bankruptcy process that saw one under government rule until this year and the latter now a wholly owned subsidiary of Italy’s Fiat SpA. Even Ford narrowly missed the process, selling many of its assets to secure the necessary cash. Now, with their businesses streamlined and the improving economy, high consumer demand triggers production increases and worker hiring.

Pent-up demand for passenger cars and light trucks has taken the auto sales this year to levels the automakers last saw back in 2006, so it’s only normal the plants are adding new shifts and hire additional workers.

The situation also works in the advantage of the automakers – shifts added and new investments adding jobs typically require new hires, starting from a lower base wage than their colleagues that started before 2007.

The tally of auto manufacturing jobs in Michigan – the traditional base of GM, Ford and Chrysler – has risen 50% from July 2009. But the total of 175,000 workers is still below the record employment of 282,400 recorded back in January 2003.