Venus Walker gets her two teenage kids settled in each night and then heads to her job at General Motorsâ€™ (GM) metal-stamping plant in Lordstown, Ohio, about 60 miles southeast of Cleveland. She gets home in time to see them off to school. Walker, 51, is one of thousands of autoworkers in the U.S. benefiting from the return of a third shift at factoriesâ€”often from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. For the first time since the car industryâ€™s collapse in 2009, many plants are running 24 hours a day. At the nadir, some plants ran only one eight-hour shift. U.S. auto plants this year may operate at about 81 percent capacity after falling as low as 49 percent in 2009, according to estimates from researcher IHS Automotive.
The new third shifts, adding more than 4,300 jobs in four states for GM alone, increase payroll-tax revenue and demand at odd hours for everything from day care and dentistry to food and financial services. â€śI like the third shift because itâ€™s flexible,â€ť explains Walker, whose 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. work hours give her plenty of time to attend her 14-year-old daughterâ€™s quiz bowl competitions or her 16-year-old sonâ€™s track meets. She also can handle daytime errands or make a run to the dentistâ€”if sheâ€™s willing to sacrifice sleep.
Automakers are increasing production at car plants after U.S. light vehicle sales rose at least 10 percent for two straight years for the first time since 1984 and grew at a faster rate than Chinaâ€™s sales for the first time in at least 13 years. States that were hit hard by the downturn, such as Michigan and Ohio, are among the biggest beneficiaries.
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