Although conventional wisdom holds that manufacturing in the United States is in decline, in fact it's been growing steadily.
The production of manufactured goods in the U.S. has been "on a steady and long-term growth path" as measured in inflation-adjusted dollars in recent decades, according to a report on the evolution of the sector from Ball State University. "The notion that manufacturing in the United States is in decline is factually incorrect," the report states. Even through the Great Recession, manufacturing grew in the U.S. From 2006 to 2013, manufacturing grew by 17.6 percent, or at roughly 2.2 percent per year.
But, even as manufacturing production has grown, employment in the sector "has largely stagnated," the Ball State report says. That is due to increases in productivity of each worker thanks to technology.
The period from 2000-2010 saw the largest losses in employment in manufacturing in the history of the U.S., the report says. It notes: "Had we kept 2000-levels of productivity and applied them to 2010-levels of production, we would have required 20.9 million manufacturing workers. Instead, we employed only 12.1 million."
As machines get better, in other words, factories require fewer workers.
"We are already seeing the impact of technology on the job market and that is something that is going to get worse," says Ford.