Monday, February 07, 2011

Myths about American Manufacturing

Jeff Jacoby had a terrific article about the alleged demise of U.S. manufacturing in yesterday's Boston Globe. He presents a few interesting bits of data that would shock most people who read the business press these days:

  • U.S. manufacturing output is twice as high as it was in the early 1970s.
  • American manufacturing output exceeds China's production by by nearly 46 percent.
  • The U.S. share of world manufacturing output is essentially the same as it was in 1990.
  • America manufactured more goods in 2009 than the combined total of Japan, Germany, Italy, and the UK.
How could this be? All we hear lately is that the U.S. manufacturing sector is in decline. The answer, of course, is that American jobs in manufacturing have decreased substantially since the 1970s. What has occurred? First and foremost, manufacturing productivity in the United States has soared since the 1970s. Secondly, we have shifted from manufacturing goods that require lots of unskilled labor to producing goods that required many fewer people with much higher skill levels.

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