NEW YORK — The job growth in the shipbuilding industry is up 8 percent this year, according to the National Shipbuilding Council.
In April, the council reported that job growth was flat to 1.4 percent, but the figure has increased to 2.7 percent this month.
While the shipyards industry has had a lot of layoffs in recent years, the growth rate in recent months is encouraging, said David M. Henson, chief executive officer of the Council of Shipbuilders.
“There is some good news here, especially after the strong March, which was a very solid month for shipbuilding, and that month has been really a rebound year,” he said.
The new shipyard jobs report, which is based on the latest information available, is a bit higher than the 1.8 percent increase the council had been anticipating.
But overall the industry has been on a downward trajectory.
It has lost nearly 600,000 jobs since 2007, when it started growing rapidly, according the council.
Its current pace of job losses is worse than any other industry, the Council said.
The council is expected to release the report later this week.
Industry executives said they were expecting the job growth to slow down in the coming months, but added that shipbuilding has not yet started to slow.
Some of the companies that have been shedding jobs have been shipbuilding companies that are moving to other industries, said John Dufour, president of the National Association of Harbor Owners.
“We don’t see any signs of that,” he told CNNMoney.
One of the reasons for the lack of growth is that many of the ships the shipbuilders are building now are older, and their use of a new propulsion system has resulted in a lot less cargo space.
Another reason is that most shipbuilders have been trying to keep their employees on board, as their sales and marketing departments have been shrinking, said Peter Schoettgen, CEO of the Alliance of Shipowners.
Shipbuilders have also been dealing with a series of retirements and layoffs that have reduced their payrolls.
Shipyards have been hit hard by the housing crisis, and many of their employees have taken part in a protest march to protest against the economic crisis in Washington.
Some of those shipbuilders, like the shipyard in Virginia, are moving shipbuilding operations to a new facility in Huntington, Rhode Island, where they will be able to compete more effectively with other shipbuilding facilities, said Schoetensports.
Other shipbuilders and shipyard companies have been consolidating their operations and shipping to new locations, he added.
Shipyard employment is expected not to pick up again until after the year is out, so the council’s estimate of the number of jobs is still quite low.
However, the new shipyards jobs report does suggest that shipbuilders could see a rebound in the near future, said Richard Renn, chief economist at Wells Fargo.
There are currently around 1.3 million people employed in shipbuilding.
About 4.4 million people work in the manufacturing and transportation sectors, including shipbuilders.