What Does the U.S. Still Manufacture?
MSNBC's Allison Linn asked herself a question: "What does the U.S. still make?" And here's what she found... The U.S. manufacturing sector gradually has been transformed to focus primarily on sophisticated items that require fewer skilled workers to produce higher value equipment such as Ford trucks, Boeing airplanes, and Viking appliances. The key to success in such manufacturnig has been the use of highly automated machinery. American factories continue to produce "hundreds of billions of dollars worth of goods annually." including fertilizers, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, computer chip components, and specialized industrial machine parts. The flip side however-- and here's the problem-- is that the U.S. continues to lose manufacturing jobs:
Nearly everyone knows someone who lost a job in manufacturing in recent years. The recession that began in December 2007 has been devastating for the sector, leading to a steep drop in production and eliminating more than 2 million manufacturing jobs, about one out of every seven positions, exacerbating a long-term trend.How to reconcile the two viewpoints? Possibly by noting that, as AAM Director Scott Paul observes in the same article, with segments of U.S. manufacturing moving offshore, there is a growing loss of innovation. Not only is the U.S. losing highly skilled workers amidst the ongoing layoffs, but it is also losing a foothold in the effort to produce the clean technology components of the 21st Century:
One major worry is that the United States, by ceding more and more skilled, technical manufacturing work to other countries, is slowly beginning to lose its traditional edge in research and development.
Such concerns are particularly acute in emerging areas such as cutting-edge solar technology and compact fluorescent lighting, where foreign companies aren’t just manufacturing products but increasingly also are doing the design and product development work.
“When you separate the production from the innovation, the innovation leaves. It goes, and it goes where the production is,” said Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, which represents manufacturers and steelworkers.
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