Industryweek 6056 Manufacturingplanttop 1 0

Does Manufacturing Deserve Special Treatment in the President's Speech?

Jan. 28, 2014
Factory jobs are far and few between and will not return to former levels.

From 1980 to 2012 across the whole economy, output per hour worked increased 85%. In manufacturing output per hour climbed 189%. 

While this level of productivity increase is admirable, it comes at a cost, according to Charles Kenny, in an article on BloombergBusinessWeek. 

It means that factory jobs are far and few between and will not return to former levels.  Kenny notes that more than half of all people still employed in the U.S. manufacturing sector work in such services as management, technical support, and sales.

It’s this situation that has Kenny questioning the wisdom of placing hope in the manufacturing sector as President Obama is expected to do in tonight’s State of the Union speech.

The president is one of many politicians of both parties as well as pundits who think manufacturing deserves special treatment. But this factory obsession is based on flawed economics. As the Brookings Institute economist Justin Wolfers asked recently, “What’s with the political fetish for manufacturing? Are factories really so awesome?”

Not really—at least not for the U.S. in 2014. Any attempt to draw lessons from the 1950s, when many a high school-educated (white, male) person got a job in a factory and joined the middle class, doesn’t account for the changes in the U.S. and global economy since the middle of the last century. While it’s smart to focus on creating more stable, remunerative jobs, few of them are likely to come from manufacturing.

For more, read Factory Jobs Are Gone. Get Over It on BloombergBusinessWeek.

Popular Sponsored Recommendations

Four Keys To Operational Excellence

Sept. 20, 2023
As manufacturers face supply chain disruption and shrinking margins, increasing operations performance is critical. Our smart manufacturing guidebook can help you achieve the ...

Discrete and Process Manufacturing 2024 Trends and Outlook for North America

Oct. 29, 2023
Manufacturers are reaping the benefits of automation and cloud-based solutions. Discover what is driving today's industry trends and how they can shape your growth priorities ...

Digitally Transforming Data and Processes With Product Lifecycle Management

Oct. 29, 2023
Manufacturers face increasing challenges in product development as they strive to consistently deliver improved results. Discover how industry leaders are improving time-to-market...

7 Crucial Steps to Improve Your OT Security

Oct. 23, 2023
Enhance OT security in manufacturing and production. Uncover the crucial steps to safeguard your operational technology. Protect against evolving threats and bridge the IT-OT ...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of IndustryWeek, create an account today!