|American manufacturing is not dead by any means. But the loss of good paying manufacturing jobs has devastated the working class, and made reaching the American dream more difficult. |
February 23, 2017
The U.S. manufacturing sector doesn’t get any respect.
Ask a random sample of people on the street and you’re likely to hear that America doesn’t make anything anymore, that China, Mexico and Vietnam took all of our factories, and that the only jobs left in America are flipping burgers and cleaning hotel rooms.
“Throughout history, at the center of any thriving country has been a thriving manufacturing sector,” says presidential candidate Donald Trump. “But under decades of failed leadership, the United States has gone from being the globe’s manufacturing powerhouse — the envy of the world — through a rapid deindustrialization.”
As with all myths, there’s some element of truth in what everyone says.
The number of jobs in the manufacturing sector has declined by about 5 million since 2000, falling from 17.3 million at the turn of the century to 12.3 million in 2015.
During World War II, when America was the Arsenal of Democracy, manufacturing provided more than a third of civilian jobs in the U.S., but that share has declined to only 8.7% in 2015. Only one of every 11 jobs is in a factory. Retail, health care, professional and business services, and leisure and hospitality services now employ more workers than manufacturing does.
The decline in manufacturing jobs certainly makes it seem as if America has been deindustrialized, but it’s not so. America still makes lots of stuff, but the number of jobs has shrunk because it doesn’t take nearly as many workers as it used to.
Here are four surprising facts about American manufacturing you may not know.
Surprising Fact No. 1: Manufacturing is the largest and most dynamic sector of the U.S. economy.
China became the leading manufacturing economy in the world in 2010, but the United States maintains a strong second-place standing. The value added by U.S. factories is more than $2 trillion a year, equal to the next three countries (Japan, Germany and South Korea) combined. U.S. manufacturing is still the envy of the world.
Gross output of U.S. manufacturing industries — counting products produced for final use as well as those used as intermediate inputs — totaled $6.2 trillion in 2015, about 36% of U.S. gross domestic product, nearly double the output of any of the other big sectors: professional and business services, government and real estate.
Manufacturing is at the center of the economy; it’s highly connected with most other sectors, such as transportation, retail, mining, utilities and business services.
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