Most people know two things about manufacturing: First, the relative importance of manufacturing has shrunk in our country. And second, manufacturing in several other countries — particularly in Asia — has been on the rise. But N.C. State University economist Mike Walden says this doesn’t mean the United States is now in the second tier of manufacturing countries.
“The latest date show that the country that manufactures more than any other country in the world is still the U.S. It is not China — it is still the U.S. In fact, we manufacture 40 percent more. Our factories manufacture 40 percent more than the factories in the number two country in manufacturing, which is China. In 2009 U.S. factories made products valued at $1.7 trillion.
“Now, it is true that the number of workers in U.S. manufacturing has gone down. In fact, they have gone down from 20 million workers in 1979 to 12 million workers today. But the reason that those workers, fewer workers, have been able to manufacture even more is because they are more productive. They are being matched with modern technology and modern machinery.
“Also, what we manufacture has dramatically changed. We are manufacturing more so-called high-value products. Things like computer chips, planes, medical devices. But we are manufacturing fewer electronics, fewer toys and fewer clothes.”