Hoping for a manufacturing renaissance.
In the Washington Post this past weekend, columnist Robert Samuelson took a hard look at America's "post-industrial" society and argued for a manufacturing revival.
Samuelson believes that manufacturing is "reviving — and the more the better." Key reasons include rising wages abroad and heightened anxieties about global supply chains. Also, lower U.S. energy costs, thanks to a natural gas boom, are also helping.
But Samuelson says that this hasn't led to a "sweeping transformation of the economy." Productivity and output remain high, but the real worry is slow job creation:
Manufacturing’s “decline” refers mostly to job loss, which is stark and long-term. In 1970, the 17.8 million manufacturing jobs represented 25 percent of all 71 million U.S. jobs. By 2012, the 11.9 million manufacturing jobs were only 9 percent of the 133.7 million total. The declines reflect two forces: automation and imports, especially of labor-intensive products. In 2011, Levinson notes, 97,000 steelworkers produced nearly 10 percent more steel than the 399,000 did in 1980. As for labor-intensive products, clothing output has dropped more than 80 percent since 1980, with jobs falling from 1.3 million to 150,000.
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