U.S. manufacturing jobs have increased at least slightly almost every month in 2017. Manufacturers continue to complain that they can’t find enough engineers and skilled tradesmen for the job openings they have. And U.S. factories are producing twice as much as they did in 1984, even though they employ just about one third as many workers.
But production increased just 1.4 percent over the past 12 months. Nearly half of the upsurge in manufacturing in recent years has come from the automotive sector, which is seeing a slow down now that “catch up” car purchases have ended. And a Ball State University study reports that manufacturing job losses since 2008 have been caused by automation, not foreign competition.
What conclusions can be drawn? It looks as though manufacturing is doing well in the U.S. if we look at production, but not if we look at jobs.
The shift in focus to higher levels of automation even among smaller companies will help American makers get things made in the U.S. A. At the same time, those unskilled production jobs are probably not coming back. Since these changes are two sides of the same coin, the reality of the U.S. manufacturing renaissance depends which side of the coin you’re looking at.
Manufacturers’ action steps
Reshoring is turning out to be beneficial for manufacturers. Consumers respond well to “Made in the USA” branding, and shorter supply chains reduce costs and allow greater agility.
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