The Productive Truth About U.S. Manufacturing

By February 25, 2011Economy, Innovation, Regulations

Mark Perry, a professor of economics at the University of Michigan, Flint, and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, outlines the strengths of the manufacturing sector, including its incredible productivity, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed today. From “The Truth About U.S. Manufacturing“:

Is American manufacturing dead? You might think so reading most of the nation’s editorial pages or watching the endless laments in the news that “nothing is made in America anymore,” and that our manufacturing jobs have vanished to China, Mexico and South Korea.

Yet the empirical evidence tells a different story—of a thriving and growing U.S. manufacturing sector, and a country that remains by far the world’s largest manufacturer. …

And …

In 2009, the most recent full year for which international data are available, our manufacturing output was $2.155 trillion (including mining and utilities). That’s more than 45% higher than China’s, the country we’re supposedly losing ground to. Despite recent gains in China and elsewhere, the U.S. still produced more than 20% of global manufacturing output in 2009.

The truth is that America still makes a lot of stuff, and we’re making more of it than ever before. We’re merely able to do it with a fraction of the workers needed in the past.

That’s a reality of manufacturing: As technology advances and productivity increases, manufacturing becomes less labor intensive. But a growing, competitive manufacturing economy will add jobs — 139,000 last year nationally — far more than a stultifying sector held down by regulatory overreach and excessive taxation.

Professor Perry’s op-ed is behind the WSJ’s subscription wall, but AEI eventually posts the columns at its own website. Here’s a good one he wrote in December for The Sacramento Bee, “EPA’s Costly Rules Will Cost Jobs and Set Back Nation’s Economic Recovery.”

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