The distribution of food manufacturing jobs and where they pay the best

EMSI analyzed the food manufacturing industry in each state, as well as in the150 largest metropolitan areas around the country.
When we think of regions where the economy is driven by food, most of us think of cornfields in Iowa, apple orchards in Washington and dairy farms in California. But a lot of the economic activity around food actually occurs after it is picked from the ground or milked from a cow.
Food manufacturing, which turns livestock and agricultural products into other products for consumption, is responsible for Green Bay's cheese and Seattle's coffee. This industry made up nearly 1.5 million wage-and-salary jobs in the United States in 2014—about three times the number of crop production jobs—making it a significant employer.
But where are food manufacturing jobs located? Where do they make up the largest share of local economies? Where are food manufacturing earnings the highest? The lowest? (Hint: Earnings have a wide range!)
To answer these questions, EMSI analyzed the food manufacturing industry in each state, as well as in the 150 largest metropolitan areas around the country.

By metro

In the metro map above, large bubble sizes indicate high job counts, showing that food manufacturing has a significant presence in the local workforce. But since job counts tend to favor the largest metros, they don't always produce interesting analyses. Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles have the largest food manufacturing workforces, despite the fact that food manufacturing only accounts for about 1 percent of jobs in these metros.
But take a look at the blue bubbles, which indicate that food manufacturing has a high share of the local economy. These metros have lower job counts because their overall workforces are smaller, but food manufacturing is nonetheless important to the region.
Let's take a closer look at food manufacturing in these five metros.

Here are some takeaways from this data:
  • The Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers metro has the highest share of food manufacturing out of all 150 metros. Out of the five metros with high shares, Fayetteville also has the highest job count in this industry.
  • Visalia-Porterville is the only metro out of these five where the food manufacturing industry has seen significant growth in the last five years. In fact, in three of the five metros, this industry is declining.
  • Despite the "Cheese Heads," Green Bay's largest employing subindustry in food manufacturing is not cheese manufacturing, although it is very close behind (1,858 jobs in animal slaughtering, 1,829 jobs in cheese manufacturing).
  • In Modesto and Visalia-Porterville, food manufacturing jobs pay on average higher earnings than the average for all industries in these regions (average earnings per job* for all industries in Modesto: $52,593; in Visalia-Porterville: $45,269).

By state

Food manufacturing has the greatest share of state economies in the Midwest and the South, although it is also prominent in Alaska, Delaware and Idaho. But, in all honesty, food manufacturing doesn't make up a huge share of any state's economy (Arkansas' share is the highest at 3.7 percent).
Still, half of the states that have higher shares of their economies in food manufacturing (appearing in blue in the above map) are also among the states where the average earnings per job for food manufacturing is higher than the average earnings overall. These states include Idaho, Iowa, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Kansas. In some cases— Idaho, for example—the combined higher-than-average pay and large share of the economy may be enough to indicate that food manufacturing is a driver industry for these states.
Here's the list of all 13 states where food manufacturing jobs pay better than the average earnings. (Keep in mind that, in contrast, food manufacturing jobs pay worse than average in 37 states):

Since food manufacturing jobs are adding higher-than-average wages to these economies, it's great news that this industry is growing in all 13 of these states (even if, in the case of Iowa, it is growing only slightly). In Vermont, food manufacturing jobs have grown a whopping 27 percent, which is exciting news since the industry pays on average $2,600 more per job than average.
New Hampshire has the highest average food manufacturing earnings per job out of all states at $67,358. And they should count themselves lucky, especially in comparison to Mississippi's $36,707 average earnings per job in food manufacturing—the lowest in the nation.
*Average earnings per job includes wages and salaries, plus supplemental compensation such as bonuses, stock options, and contributions to 401(k) plans, for all jobs in a specific metro or industry. Because EMSI includes non-wage/salary compensation, EMSI's industry earnings numbers should not be treated as "average salary." They are generally higher than average salary by industry numbers that may come from other sources.


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