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Friday, July 5, 2013

Job Creation in the Manufacturing Revival

Marc Levinson
Section Research Manager

The health of the U.S. manufacturing sector is of intense interest to Congress. Numerous bills aimed at promoting manufacturing have been introduced in Congress, often with the stated goal of creating jobs. Implicit in many of these bills is the assumption that the manufacturing sector is uniquely able to provide well-paid employment for workers who have not pursued advanced education.

U.S. manufacturing output has risen significantly over the past four years as the economy has recovered from recession. This upswing in manufacturing activity, however, has resulted in negligible employment growth. Although a variety of forces seem likely to support further growth in domestic manufacturing output over the next few years, including higher labor costs in the emerging economies of Asia, higher international freight transportation costs, and increased concern about disruptions to transoceanic supply chains, evidence suggests that such a resurgence would lead to relatively small job gains within the manufacturing sector.

The past few years have seen important changes in the nature of manufacturing work. A steadily smaller proportion of manufacturing workers is involved in physical production processes, while larger shares are engaged in managerial and professional work. These changes are reflected in increasing skill requirements for manufacturing workers and severely diminished opportunities for workers without education beyond high school. Even if increased manufacturing output leads to additional employment in the manufacturing sector, it is likely to generate little of the routine production work historically performed by workers with low education levels.

As manufacturing processes have changed, factories with large numbers of workers have become much less common than they once were. This suggests that promotion of manufacturing as a tool to stimulate local economies is likely to meet with limited success; even if newly established factories prosper, few are likely to require large amounts of labor.

Date of Report: June 19, 2013
Number of Pages: 17
Order Number: R41898
Price: $29.95

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