Is U.S. manufacturing being hollowed out as jobs flow overseas? A nice reality check comes from a recent analysis by trade expert Edward Gresser at the left-of-center Progressive Policy Institute. Gresser, a trade official in the Clinton administration, points out that as "measured by production, share of the U.S. and world economies, or investment and export trends, American factories are doing very well. "
A few key factoids:
In real dollars, American manufacturers produced $1.53 trillion worth of goods in 2005up from $900 billion in 1992, a 70 percent increase.
The most recent data show that manufacturing accounts for 13.5 percent of the U.S. economy in real dollarsup from 12.9 percent in 1992.
World Bank and U.N. reports find that the United States accounted for 21.1 percent of the world's manufacturing output in 2003, only slightly less than the 21.4 percent of 1993.
Are fewer workers involved in manufacturing than a decade ago? You bet. But as Gresser rightly notes, increased automation is behind much of that: "Confronting a surge in Chinese competition, American factories are replacing people with machines more quickly than ever before. The 3 million workers laid off during the recession of 2001 and 2002 do not represent lost production but heavy investment in robots and computers. American factories accordingly produce more goods with fewer people." According to the Robotic Industries Association, a trade group for North American manufacturers, nonautomotive orders for robots jumped 44 percent last year. The RIA estimates that some 166,000 robots are now at use in U.S. factories, placing the United States second to Japan in overall robot use.