Manufacturing is more important than critics will admit
It seems like common sense to say that a country needs a strong manufacturing base in order to support a middle class economy. After all, manufacturing has a tremendous value-added profile. Assembling a product creates a tangible good, an asset--something that can be sold to bring wealth into a country.
There's a lot more to manufacturing, though, and as Dr. Julie Heath explained in a recent Cincinnati Enquirer op-ed, manufacturing is "still important to our economy."
Heath says that manufacturing's great benefit is the good wages it provides:
Wage premiums in the manufacturing sector have declined, but remain about 21 percent higher than in private, non-agricultural sectors. These are well-paying jobs that are typically accompanied by good benefits.
In 2009, national average compensation for manufacturing workers was $74,447, compared to $63,122 for non-manufacturing workers.
This is a tangible benefit of manufacturing's value-added status-- namely that it has "long been a source of middle-class attainment and stability."
In addition to jobs, however, manufacturing is also a key driver of a modern economy. Heath explains that a strong manufacturing sector is "the impetus for significant innovation, one of the most critical factors of economic growth":
The majority of the country’s scientists and engineers are employed in the manufacturing sector, accounting for 68 percent of business spending on research and development. This is important because strong R&D can lead to increases in manufacturing output, even in the face of declining or flat employment.
The botom line is that manufacturing matters. As Heath says, "its long-term decline would be cause for concern."
That's why the U.S. needs to continue pushing for a robust industrial sector.
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