Face the facts about factory jobs – Daily Journal

by | Aug 9, 2022 | Jobs

I’ve been living in Rustbelt towns in West Virginia, Ohio and Indiana for more than two decades. One shocking thing I continue to hear is the belief that something will cause an increase in factory jobs. Whether this fantasy is heard on the national stage or in cities and towns, I remain stunned by the ignorance that otherwise intelligent people have about manufacturing in the United States.
One trick I have to show how misinformed folks are about factory employment is simply to ask, “When was peak manufacturing production in the USA?” The answers range from 1942 to the 1970s. The correct answer is 2021.
That’s right, the inflation-adjusted peak year of manufacturing production in the USA was 2021. That shouldn’t be too shocking to folks, but apparently, it is. I then ask, “When was peak manufacturing employment in the USA?” The answer there is 1979, which seems not to shock too many people.
Here in Indiana, the answers are 2021 and 1973, respectively. So what’s been going on, and why do so many folks believe that salvation in the form of factory jobs is right around the corner?
Well, the facts about manufacturing are pretty simple. As a share of employment, manufacturing has been in a steady decline since the end of World War II. However, the share of manufacturing GDP has been almost constant for 75 years. The primary reason for that is simply that we are very good at making things. So, we continue to get manufacturing production peaks with fewer and fewer workers.
Of course, we aren’t alone in this fact. Manufacturing employment is down worldwide. Peak factory employment in Germany occurred in 1970. In Taiwan, it peaked in 1988, and insofar as you can believe any of their public data, factory jobs peaked in China 15 years ago.
Most manufactured goods can be produced anywhere and s …

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