Employment slips at Japanese-brand stores

Employment at U.S. Japanese-brand dealerships fell 2 percent last year.

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TOKYO -- Employment at Japanese-brand dealerships in the U.S. slid in 2013, even as manufacturing jobs expanded at Japanese auto companies' U.S. factories, an annual survey found.

The number of people directly employed by Japanese-brand franchised new-vehicle dealerships fell 2 percent to 319,568 last year, according to the study. It was commissioned by the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, with the data-crunching done by Thomas Prusa, an economics professor at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.

That was in contrast to a rise in overall employment at U.S. franchised new-vehicle dealerships. In 2013, total dealership employment in the U.S. rose 3 percent to 1,008,800, marking the third straight increase, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association's annual NADA Data report.

The total number of jobs derived from Japanese-brand auto retailers, including indirect jobs such as those at suppliers of goods and services to those dealerships, dropped 2 percent in 2013 to 663,568, from 678,477 in 2012, the study said. JAMA conducts the annual study to determine the contribution of the Japanese auto industry to the U.S. economy.

The study did not explain the reason for the drop, but noted it still represented a net gain of 10,000 total jobs from 2011.

Dealerships may have trimmed jobs as sales plateaued after the rapid recovery following Japan's 2011 earthquake.

U.S. sales of Japanese-brand vehicles took a hit when supplies tumbled drastically following that year's March 11 earthquake and tsunami. But sales bounced back strongly in 2012 on pent-up demand, before normalizing in 2013.

Indeed, Japanese-brand sales in the U.S. surged 20 percent to 5,343,579 units in 2012, outpacing the total industry's 13 percent advance.

But in 2013, the sales gains tapered off. Japanese-brand new light-vehicle sales rose 8 percent to 5,786,577, matching the industry's 8 percent expansion.

The dealership cutback in 2013 came even as employment grew in the U.S. manufacturing sector at Japanese-brand companies.

Direct U.S. employment by Japan-based automakers grew 2 percent to 82,816 in 2013, slowing sharply from a 12 percent rise in 2012, as many Japanese automakers and suppliers opened factories in Mexico. Overall employment, including intermediate and spinoff jobs, rose 2 percent to 699,816 people.

You can reach Hans Greimel at hgreimel@crain.com. -- Follow Hans on Twitter


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