Sunday, January 25, 2015

Jobs in Technical Writing

Standard Occupational Classification #27-3042 Technical Writers

SOC definition Technical Writers #27-3042 -- Write technical materials, such as equipment manuals, appendices, or operating and maintenance instruction manuals. Many assist in layout work. Examples of other common names are documentation writer, assembly instructions writer, specifications writer

Technical writing work is classified as a media and communications occupation with the largest share working in the professional and technical services industries, almost 36 percent of the jobs. Among the professional services computer systems design and related services has 18 percent of the jobs, but other professional services like architectural and engineering services, management and scientific and technical consulting services also employ a large number.

Another 16 percent are in various manufacturing industries that need owner’s manuals and repair manuals to go with manufactured products. Computer and electronic product manufacturing has 6 percent of these jobs alone with small percents scattered in many manufacturing industries.

The publishing industry employs a little over 8 percent with 5 percent working for software publishers. Government employs 3.4 percent; 2.5 percent in the federal government. The rest are scattered as small percents in many industries because finance, health care and so many industries need to explain technical material. A little over 9 percent are self employed.

National employment as technical writers was 47,300 in 2013. Jobs are down from 50,700 since 2000 in a modest decline. Annual average job decline was 262 per year since 2000 at a growth rate of -.53 percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is forecasting job growth for technical writers of 280 per year through 2022 with a growth rate of 2.07 percent a year.

Job openings make a better measure of new hiring than job growth. Job openings are job growth and the number of net replacements. Net replacements are people who permanently leave an occupation for another occupation or retirement and must be replaced before there can be job growth. Job openings for technical writers are forecast to be 2,260 a year through 2022.

The recently updated BLS Education and Training Classification assignments lists BA degree skills as necessary for entry into jobs as technical writers. However, percentages from survey data are published for technical writing that show an educational distribution where 47 percent have a BA degree and another 26 percent have advanced degrees. Another 21 percent have some college, but no degree, or an associate’s degree. Some specialized knowledge or experience may be satisfactory in some industries, but less than 6 percent who work as technical writers have high school or less than high school training. Previous experience of 1 to 5 years is considered important, but short term on-the-job training is expected for new hires.

Relevant BA degree programs include Professional, Technical, Business and Scientific Writing, English Language and Literature, General and also Journalism degrees that teach writing as a career. For those interested in technical writing it is wise to find a college that offers the Technical Writing specialty in that only a few actually specialize in technical writing.

There were 685 Professional, Technical, Business and Scientific Writing BA degrees for the last full year of data reported by the Department of Education. In addition, there were 363 more advanced degrees. The ratio of relevant degrees to openings equals 0.464, or 1,048/2,260, assuring a shortage of highly trained and specialized candidates to fill job openings. There were also 43,260 BA degrees in English Language and Literature, General, and 12,249 BA degrees in journalism. Even though these degrees are not as specialized to technical writing, Professional, Technical, Business and Scientific Writing degree candidates should expect other qualified candidates in the applicant pool.

The entry wage for the national market in the 10th percentile for technical writers is reported as $40,270 in 2013. The 25th percentile wage equals $51,850. The median wage is $67,900, the 75th percentile wage equals $86,340 and the 90th percentile wage is $105,760.

The wages of technical writers have kept up with inflation for the last decade. For example, to have the buying power of the 2006 median wage of $58,050 in 2013, the technical writers wage would need to be $67,079.11. In stead it was $67,900, a 1.22 percent increase in the real wage for those six years.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Death's Door

Steve Lehto, Death’s Door: The Truth Behind the Italian Hall Disaster and the Strike of 1913, (Detroit: Momentum Books, 1913) second edition, 397 pages

Steve Lehto first published Death’s Door in 2006. It includes a detailed account and review of evidence from a panic at a Christmas Eve party attended by children and parents of striking copper miners in Keweenaw, Michigan. The panic that took place on the second floor of Italian Hall in Calumet resulted in the death of 73, mostly children. The title Death’s Door derives from the pileup and suffocation of victims toward the bottom of the stairwell in front of the exit door. The book includes narrative history of the Keweenaw copper strike of 1913-14, which is necessary to understand the events at Italian Hall and the claims and charges in the aftermath.

The second edition published in 2013 added new material as the hundredth anniversary of the strike approached. It takes up old controversies that still remain and some new ones that recently surfaced in other books and accounts.

The discussion of the Christmas party comes as a brief version of events in the Introduction, then again in more detail in a chapter also titled Death’s Door, actually Chapter 7, although the book’s sixteen chapters are not numbered. The next chapter narrates several days after and the short chapter fifteen titled “What Actually Happened” provides further discussion and Lehto’s conclusions about the panic at Death’s Door.

The Western Federation of Miners strike in the copper mines of Keweenaw began July 22, 1913 and did not end until April 1914. Sketches of the local community, the mining companies and business groups, the union, and some biographical material of general managers, and other officials fill chapter 2. Chapter 3 narrates the strike from the beginning into mid August, a period that included picketing and parades, the governor mobilizing the National Guard, and the county sheriff deputizing hundreds of strike breakers and vigilantes. The rest of the events of the strike including Italian Hall are scattered in chapters four through ten.

Narrative in the first ten chapters takes several detours to examine specific events that occurred during the strike. For example, chapter four takes sixty pages to discuss the legal record in a brutal attack and shootings by private detectives and sheriffs deputies that occurred August 14 at a boardinghouse full of miners in Seeberville. Discussion of the Seeberville shootings and other violent events like the Italian Hall panic benefit from Lehto’s experience as a Michigan attorney. In each of several other episodes and the Italian Hall panic he reviews and evaluates the legal evidence with a microscope: arrest warrants, transcripts of testimony of preliminary examinations, coroner’s inquests, and trials.

After the hardships of nearly six months on strike miners planned a large Christmas Eve Party at Italian hall for union members and their families. After the party was well underway a man entered the hall, climbed the stairs and shouted “fire” into a room stuffed with 700 hundred people, which caused the panic and death already mentioned. Accounts of what happened varied dramatically depending on who told the story. Striking miners identified the man from a business group known as the Citizens Alliance; mining companies and the newspapers had other stories and supplied other explanations.

Chapter 8 has a thorough review of newspaper reports; chapter 9 covers the archival record of officials like the county sheriff, his deputies, the prosecutor and coroner; and chapter 10 reviews testimony at hearings of a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee sent to Keweenaw to investigate the strike and Italian Hall. Transcripts of official proceedings, especially the coroner’s inquest remain, which allows an evaluation of established legal procedures with the record of events that took place in 1913.

Lehto concludes the misconduct of mine owners with their cozy relationships with law enforcement officers and government officials made them co-conspirators and accomplices to crimes. He writes a strikebreaker named Edward Manley entered Italian hall, cried “fire” and ran out. While it is likely that Manley only wanted to create a disturbance and disrupt miner solidarity, his intentional actions killed 73 people.

Lehto’s views in the first edition published in 2006 got more controversial as the 100th anniversary approached and other accounts and views were discussed and published. More recent explanations have cast the mine owners in a more benevolent light suggesting what occurred at Italian Hall was a tragic accident the cause of which cannot be solved. The remaining six chapters address these controversies as individual topics.

Chapter 11, entitled Lingering Controversies, challenges five of the revisionist views such as the suggestion the exit doors opened inward and that was a cause of the tragedy. Italian Hall was torn down in 1984 and the State of Michigan authorized an historical marker at the site dedicated in November 1989, which allowed these revisionist views, but there are other points in contention reviewed in this chapter.

In the next chapter readers find out about a 2012 grant from the Michigan Humanities Council to Michigan Technological University in Keweenaw to create an exhibit on the strike entitled, Tumult and Tragedy. The authors of Tumult and Tragedy also published a revisionist book about the strike and the Italian Hall panic entitled, Community in Conflict. In the book they specifically attack Lehto’s work and so he devoted a chapter to review their book and reply to these attacks.

A few more short chapters reiterate conclusions to finish the book. The book reads as a mixture of historical narrative, legal analysis and journalism. The writing flows along easily, but the material does not always follow an obvious line of organization and so it sometimes feels jumbled. One aside, Lehto started over a hundred sentences with the word, interestingly, which got to be an amusing bit of surplusage. An insert of 36 pages of pictures and drawings of the floor plans of the Italian Hall adds a significant benefit to the book. It does not have numbered footnotes but a list of unnumbered footnotes at the end organized only by chapter heading, which makes it harder to find citations. There is no index, a serious shortcoming in my view.

The period of 1910 to early 1920’s is a period of vicious and violent attacks on organized labor throughout the United States and especially the Western Federation of Miners. WFM president Charles Moyer had a long career as a labor organizer in the western United States when he arrived to help in the Keweenaw strike. Out west he was frequently attacked, beaten, kidnapped and once acquitted in a long murder trial in Idaho that resulted from perjured testimony.

He arrived in Calumet at the time of the Christmas Eve party. After the Citizens Alliance decided to donate funds to families of victims of Italian Hall, the families and union President Moyer refused the money as inappropriate given events of the strike. Alliance members were enraged and the county sheriff and several Alliance members confronted Moyer at his hotel room. When he again refused their money they threatened him. The sheriff left but within minutes twenty men bashed down his door and physically attacked him. During the beating a hand gun went off and the bullet hit Moyer in the shoulder. Wounded and bleeding the gang dragged him to the train station and forcibly deported him to Chicago; no one was ever prosecuted.

The Moyer shooting and kidnapping and other shootings during the strike were committed by men paid by the mine owners. All of those killed were strikers. These known and admitted facts in the case along with Lehto’s careful examination of the written evidence refute the revisionist views. The Keweenaw copper strike was like strikes all over the country where organized labor and the working class struggled in divided communities to cope with the bitter opposition of business and their supporters among the well-to-do and middle class. Be assured Death’s Door is the definitive source for the Keweenaw copper strike of 1913.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Michigan Jobs 2014-2015

Michigan reached a monthly average high of 4.68 million establishment jobs way back in 2000, followed by a long slide to a low of 3.86 million jobs in 2010, a decline of 813 thousand jobs over the decade. Job growth returned in 2011 until average monthly employment reached 4.11 million in 2013, an increase of 241 thousand jobs over the three year period. Jobs are up for the first 9 months of 2014, but at a slower pace of increase with only 12.9 thousand new jobs for the new year.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder took office January 1, 2011 and after the 2014 election will continue until the end of 2018. His first three years in office included a significant improvement on jobs where 241 thousand new jobs equals an annual growth rate of 2.04 percent, higher than the national job growth rate and higher than the growth rate of forty-five of the fifty states and the District of Columbia. His re-election to a new term gives a good chance to make a mid-term assessment on jobs.


Michigan lost 422.6 thousand manufacturing jobs from 2000 through 2010 about 52 percent of the statewide decline in jobs. From 2010 to 2013 manufacturing employment increased from 474 thousand to 555 thousand, an increase of 81 thousand, or a third of the statewide increase in establishment jobs. The Michigan increase in manufacturing jobs was higher than any other state, even the five states that have higher non-farm employment than Michigan. As of 2013 manufacturing has 13.5 percent of statewide establishment employment compared to the national average of 8.8 percent.

Share Reversals – From Decrease to Increase

Manufacturing was part of the job reversals from 2010 to 2013. However, all three of the goods production industries, natural resource, construction and manufacturing, reversed from decreasing between 2000 and 2010 to increasing from 2010 to 2013. Goods production declined by 8.24 percent of statewide jobs over the decade ending 2010, but increased by 1.33 percent in the three years ending 2013.

Professional and business services are another group of industries that reversed direction in 2010 from a declining share to an increasing share of Michigan jobs. The professional and technical services component of these services have jobs in law, accounting, architecture, engineering, computer design, management consulting, scientific research, advertising, and veterinary services. Professional jobs were up from 222.8 thousand in 2010 to 260.7 thousand in 2013, an increase of 37.3 thousand jobs. The new jobs were up enough to raise their share of Michigan jobs by .57 percent to 6.3 percent by 2013, reversing a small decline from 2000 to 2010.

The administrative and support services component of professional and business services includes office and facilities support services, employment services, travel agencies, security services, and services to buildings and grounds. Administrative and support jobs were up from 242 thousand in 2010 to 284 thousand in 2013, an increase of 42 thousand jobs. The increase was enough over the three years to raise their share of Michigan jobs by .65 percent to 6.9 percent.

Percentage Share Reversals – From Increase to Decrease

When some industries have higher percent others must have a lower percentage, which guarantees other industries lost jobs or did not have enough new jobs to maintain their share of Michigan jobs. Job growth in health care, government and education faltered after 2010 even though these industries helped sustain Michigan employment with more jobs from 2000 to 2010.

Health care employment was up from 9.6 percent in 2000 to 13.8 percent of statewide employment in 2010, an increase of 4.2 percent, but health care lost a .11 percent of Michigan jobs by 2013. Government service including education dropped 1.85 percent of statewide employment from 2010 to 2013. The decrease includes a .96 percent drop in jobs for the public schools and universities.

Private school education also declined from 1.9 percent of statewide employment to 1.8 percent from 2010 to 2013. Combined public and private education was up by 1.7 percent to 10.5 percent of statewide employment in 2010, but after 2010 jobs dropped from 406 thousand to 384 thousand with a loss of 1.1 percent of statewide employment.

The New Direction

The new direction shows up primarily with an expansion of goods production, especially manufacturing, and professional and business services in exchange for less government services, health care, and education. Combined goods production and business and professional services increased from 27.6 percent of statewide employment to 30.2 percent in just three years. The combination of government services, education, and health care decreased from 32.3 percent of statewide Michigan employment to 30.1 percent from 2010 to 2013.

Jobs usually figure in elections. If that is true in the 2014 Michigan election then 2010 to 2013 job growth undoubtedly translated into positive votes for Governor Snyder. Job growth justifies his claim that Michigan’s job outlook improved during his first term.

If new jobs are a goal for newly elected politicians the safest strategy is to work for new jobs in all sectors of the economy. The Michigan mix of new jobs has a political component because the governor has taken steps to increase jobs in the private sector as he pressed for a reduction in government services, which have decreased jobs in government and education.

Lagging Service Sectors and Productivity

The expanded use of computers and digital technologies raises productivity and slows the growth of jobs across service industry sectors that make up a large share of Michigan jobs. For example, wholesale and retail trade made up almost 16 percent of jobs in 2000, but barely 15 percent now.

Productivity has also slowed the growth of other service industries like newspapers, broadcasting, phone services, and in financial services like banking, lending, insurance and real estate as America slowly shift to a paperless economy. Combined these sectors continue to have 21.3 percent of statewide employment but their slow growth, and sometimes decline, makes them an unlikely source for significant increase in the future.

Other small sectors like repair and maintenance services, transportation, utilities, arts-entertainment-recreation including gambling, accommodations including casino hotels, personal services and non-profit associations have small shares with a combined 9.4 percent of statewide employment in 2013, down about .15 percent from 2010. Gambling employment dropped a few hundred jobs to 7 thousand statewide jobs.

Government and education including private schools have 16.4 percent of statewide employment as of 2013, off 39 thousand jobs in the last three years. These remain an unlikely source of new jobs in the current political climate.

Restaurants reached their highest statewide employment in 2006 with 352.3 thousand jobs, but with moderate ups and downs it is 350 thousand in 2013 with 7.5 percent of statewide employment. The job changes over the last decade do not suggest restaurants will be a major source of future jobs, but it has been adding about 7 thousand jobs a year recently and may continue.

Health Care and Professional and Business Services

The combined total of the above service sector jobs comes to 54.6 percent, which leaves 45.3 percent of the remaining sectors as the most likely source of new Michigan jobs. Remaining sectors include health care with 13.7 percent of Michigan establishment jobs, professional and business services with 14.7 percent and goods production with 16.9 percent.

Michigan needs 80 to 90 thousand new jobs a year to sustain the growth of the last three years. Major sectors like trade and information services continue to lose percentage share and now education and government services are down for political reasons, which makes it essential to have replacement jobs from other sectors. To keep the job mill going health care, professional and business services, and goods production needs to grow a little faster than the statewide average to increase their share of jobs.

Michigan health care employment increased between 8 and 9 thousand jobs a year from 2000 to 2013, but the rate of increase has fallen below the statewide growth rate for the last three years. The pace of new jobs needs to increase so that Michigan adds 12 to 13 thousand health care jobs a year, which will help make up for other slow growth sectors. Michigan health care employment has 13.7 percent of statewide employment compared to 13 percent in the national economy, but it will be difficult for Michigan to meet its job needs unless it continues at 13.7 percent or ticks up toward 14 percent.

Professional and business services employment, which recall has the combination of professional and technical services, managerial establishments, and business support services, reached a statewide high in 2000 with 641 thousand jobs. It declined to a low of 501 thousand by 2009. Jobs started to increase the year before Governor Snyder was elected but has continued to increase to the present. The monthly average in 2013 was 602 thousand jobs.

Michigan professional and business services jobs were up between 32 and 35 thousand a years in the four year period. Except for legal services growth rates in these industries exceeded the statewide growth rate, often at double and sometimes at triple the statewide rate. Michigan already has 14.7 percent of its statewide employment in these industries when the national average is 13.6 percent, making it unrealistic to expect the pace to continue, but Michigan needs 20 to 25 thousand of these new jobs to keep pace for continued growth around 2 percent a year.

Goods Production

Goods production also reached a high in 2000 with 1.12 million jobs, but declined to a low of 597.6 thousand in 2009. Jobs started to recover before Governor Snyder took office, but 93 of the 98 thousand new goods production jobs came after he was in office.

Natural resources and mining was up a thousand jobs and construction was up 4 thousand jobs over the three years. While up is better than down both sectors have small shares of Michigan jobs. In the national economy natural resources employment is .64 percent, but in the Michigan economy it is only .2 percent. Natural resources has not added more than a thousand jobs a year in natural resources going back to 1990.

Construction jobs increased by 11 thousand to 132 thousand in the three years since 2010. Michigan has construction employment equal to 3.2 percent of statewide employment compared to the national economy where it is 4.3 percent. Construction needs just 3 thousand new jobs a year to keep pace with the current statewide growth rate. A good economy should be able to increase it to 5 or 6 thousand a year.

Motor Vehicles

That leaves manufacturing, the most uncertain variable in Michigan jobs. The Michigan increase in manufacturing jobs came primarily in motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts manufacturing with 36 thousand of the 81 thousand manufacturing increase. Another 29 thousand of the manufacturing jobs were in auto related primary metals, fabricated metals, and machinery manufacturing. Combined these auto related industries make up 80 percent of the Michigan manufacturing increase.

In spite of the national decline in manufacturing after 2000 and the national decline of more than a 100 thousand jobs in automobile manufacturing in the same period, Michigan still has more motor vehicle manufacturing jobs than any other state. In 2012, it had 39.1 thousand jobs making complete vehicles or the chassis and frame, which was 23.4 percent of national employment in this industry; in 2013 it was up to 42.4 thousand jobs, which was up to 23.8 percent of complete vehicle, chassis and frame manufacturing. Second place Ohio had barely 20 thousand of these jobs.

Michigan ranks sixth in motor vehicle body and trailer manufacturing with 6 thousand jobs, but this is the smallest segment of the industry.

Michgian is first in the biggest segment of the industry: motor vehicle parts manufacturing. Employment here was 109.7 thousand jobs in 2013, which was 21.6 percent of the national employment. Ohio was second again with 63.6 thousand jobs.

From 2012 to 2013 jobs in the three component motor vehicle industries added 42.8 thousand jobs in nationwide employment. Michigan had 10.9 thousand of the new jobs, or just over 25 percent of them. It was more than any other state. Since five states had a decrease in motor vehicle manufacturing employment, and 13 states had a decrease in auto parts manufacturing employment, Michigan is clearly making gains in competition with other states in motor vehicle manufacturing.

The benefits of job gains depend partly on wages. The Bureau of Labor Statistics now publishes wage distributions by state, by industry and by occupation. Production occupations make up 60 to 66 percent of jobs in motor vehicle manufacturing including assembly and parts manufacturing. The Michigan median wage for production workers in motor vehicle manufacturing was $22.92 in 2012 and was up to $23.69 in 2013. Wages were up as employment was up from 21,540 in 2012 to 31,450 in 2013.

For Michigan production workers in motor vehicle body and trailer manufacturing in 2012 the median wage was $17.64 but was down to $15.27 in 2013. Employment here is low with only 2,640 jobs in 2012 and 2,680 in 2013.

For Michigan production workers in motor vehicle parts manufacturing in 2012 the median wage was $19.67 but was down to $17.09 in 2013. Wages were down as employment was up from 56,910 in 2012 to 61,290 in 2013. However, the wage bill (wage x employment) dropped for production workers who had less wage income to put into the Michigan economy.

Bureau of Labor Statistics data allows comparison between Michigan and other states. Production occupations for motor vehicle manufacturing in 2013 exceed 1,000 jobs in 10 states, but seven of those states report median wages higher than Michigan and two states with median wages below Michigan.

Production occupations for motor vehicle body and trailer manufacturing exceed 1,000 jobs in 26 states, but nine states report median wages higher than Michigan and sixteen states have median wages below Michigan.

Production occupations for motor vehicle parts manufacturing exceed 1,000 jobs in 28 states, but three states report median wages higher than Michigan and 24 states have median wages below Michigan.

A Cautious Future

Michigan needs at least 80 thousand new jobs a year to meet statewide employment needs. The job shifts over the last three to four years make Michigan more dependent on selling exports to other states or countries and therefore more vulnerable to job losses in an economic downturn. Through the first 9 months of 2014 manufacturing is up 8.9 thousand jobs out of a statewide increase of 12.9 thousand. Motor vehicle and motor vehicle related manufacturing in fabricated metals and machinery manufacturing were up 9.1 thousand in the same period, which means other manufacturing industries have a net decline in jobs.

The narrow advance of jobs in the three industries motor vehicle manufacturing, professional services expect legal services, and employment services makes a future forecast hard to make. In the first 9 months of 2014 retail trade, financial services, education, health care, accommodations, repair and maintenance services, personal services, non-profit associations, and federal, state and local government all had small job losses. Michigan has a better outlook on jobs than it did in 2009 and 2010, but it needs a broader advance across more industries to be optimistic it will continue.