Truthfully, how well did the U.S. manufacturing sector perform in the last decade?
Many economists think U.S. manufacturing is doing great. According to the Washington Post's Peter Whoriskey, this is because economists see American manufacturing as becoming increasingly productive. For example, both Robert Reich and Glenn Hubbard praise this perceived "higher productivity."
However, these figures may be misleading. Whoriskey cites a new report by the non-partisan Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) that believes U.S. factories may have gained efficiency in recent years, but have failed to "hold their own amid global competition and rising imports." The ITIF believes that their reserach demonstrates why "apparent productivity gains reflected in the official U.S. statistics have been miscalculated and misrepresented."
The ITIF report offers some stark facts:
- In the 2000s, U.S. manufacturing suffered its worst performance in American history in terms of jobs. Not only did America lose 5.7 million manufacturing jobs, but the decline as a share of total manufacturing jobs (33 percent) exceeded the rate of loss in the Great Depression.
- In 2010, 13 of the 19 U.S. manufacturing sectors (employing 55 percent of manufacturing workers) were producing less than in 2000.
- When measured properly, U.S. manufacturing output actually fell 11 percent over the last decade while GDP increased 17 percent, something that has not happened before, at least since WWII.
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