In the first decade of the 21st century, U.S. manufacturing saw a steep decline as the industry shed 5.8 million jobs, a decline of one-third. This steep drop-off of manufacturing jobs has been attributed to businesses offshoring to foreign countries, automation, trade deficits, and more.
But the decline didn’t last. Since then, manufacturing jobs have grown and U.S. factories now employ nearly 13 million workers, the largest workforce in the manufacturing industry since the Great Recession. This industry employs 8.4% of the workforce and makes up for an outsized 12% of U.S. output.
This resurgence of U.S. manufacturing provides many long-term benefits to the U.S. job market
1. U.S. Manufacturing Creates Jobs
The rise of U.S. manufacturing is a bright spot for the nation’s economy and translates to jobs for Americans. Between 2010 and 2021, U.S. manufacturing added approximately 1 million workers, reversing the earlier manufacturing decline and providing jobs to the workforce.
New businesses that manufacture in the U.S. create new jobs. And many manufacturers that sent their manufacturing jobs overseas are now considering reshoring, or bringing those jobs back to the U.S. As manufacturing continues to grow, so will the number of available jobs.
U.S. manufacturing also conveys benefits to many specific regions of the U.S. A large share of the manufacturing workforce resides in areas like the Rust Belt, the Agricultural Midwest, and the Industrial Southeast.
2. U.S. Manufacturing Pays Well
Manufacturing jobs often provide better wages, especially for skilled workers that require on-the-job training. They also can pay more to lower-skilled workers who would otherwise earn lower wages. Higher wages apply across many demographics including wage level, education level, gender, race and ethnicity, and more. For example, workers in manufacturing earn 9% more per week than their counterparts in other industries.
Manufacturing jobs are also more likely than non-manufacturing jobs to include employee benefits like health insurance, paid vacations and holidays, retirement plans, and more. The need for skilled and motivated workers should continue to help drive competitive pay and benefits
3. U.S. Manufacturing Drives Future Opportunities
Labor shortages pose the greatest long-term threat to manufacturing growth. As the sector continues to add jobs, employers are scrambling to find qualified employees. Despite a hiring binge, the sector had 800,000 unfilled job openings for most of 2021. But this shortage can help drive opportunities for young people and future generations.
Employers are looking for help by targeting new demographics, including women in what has traditionally been a male-dominated field. The percentage of hourly factory jobs held by women is up 27% since two years ago and that share could continue to rise.
Some companies are also taking action to build the pipeline of future workers. For example, Ford is reaching out to eighth grade students in Tennessee to educate them on future opportunities building batteries for electric cars post-graduation. And manufacturing-focused institutes are joining together with businesses, regional universities and community colleges, and other groups to deliver workforce education to a new generation of workers.
U.S. manufacturing is a critical sector of the American workforce. The manufacturing industry provides American jobs, often pays more competitive wages, and can provide opportunities to workers. The resulting benefits can help to sustain the workforce and the economy for generations to come.