Employees involved in production activities account for 51 percent of the U.S. manufacturing workforce. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recognizes more than 100 occupational classifications in manufacturing production; these constitute a wide range of education and skill levels, such as computer-controlled machine tool operators, electronic equipment assemblers, butchers, and bakers.

The top five categories by employment share make up over one-third of total U.S. manufacturing production employment. The largest category is metal and plastic workers (at over 26 percent), who are responsible for cutting, shaping, and forming metal and plastic materials. The top five also includes assemblers and fabricators, who assemble both parts and finished products that receive those parts. Team assemblers are the third most common production career, an occupation of increasing importance as team structures become more prevalent in U.S. manufacturing, concomitant with the widening implementation of lean production systems and cultures. The last two categories are first-line supervisors and food processing workers. The former watch over production and operating workers and help to coordinate their activities.

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