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Shop Talk: Change Has Come to America

(April/May 2019) posted on Thu May 30, 2019

The printing industry has adapted with the times, but that doesn’t mean everyone else has.

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By Andy MacDougall

My last column focused on the ongoing history of print, its remaining importance, and its growth as printing continues to decorate and drive the fabric of the society we live in. (You know – the usual AndyMac bull$#%@.) Every printer or business that relies on printing to create their unique product seems to be developing in the economy: Locally, here on Vancouver Island. Nationally. Internationally. Graphic printing. Decorative printing. Industrial printing. You name it.

Digital printing has created entirely new market segments over the last 20 years. Textile decoration is ubiquitous and spreading (or should I say sublimating), and all that cheap-ass electronica that now dominates every minute of people’s lives? Every piece of it has printed parts. If you want to hear a prediction from the last person not to have a cellphone, it’s simply that none of it is going away soon. Smartphones are the TV remote of the internet of things. And it’s all printed.

It would seem there will be lots of work for skilled press operators and all the other techs on the production team. Our presses and other production machinery are getting more sophisticated and automated. Packaging and functional print are the areas predicted to grow in the future. That’s good news for screen printers, and most everyone else in the printing universe. Maybe not lithographers or stencil cutters. Times change. Industries evolve. Definitions change. Or do they? 

The Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics announced in January that “printer,” “screen printer,” and “support activities for printing” are no longer official jobs as far as BLS is concerned. Apparently, they are “statistically irrelevant.” Perhaps they checked on stencil cutting, found one guy in Buda, Texas, who still does it, and killed the entire category. 

The Washington Post, in a rare story to mention screen printing, reported about the excommunication in February. “The broad sector that includes printing has shed about a third of its jobs since the start of the Great Recession – more than every sector but clothing manufacturing, which also no longer has enough US jobs to merit many lines in the database.”


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