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November 19, 2008

The future of manufacturing

Many people are pessimistic about manufacturing. They see manufacturing employment continuing to fall, entire sectors of manufacturing disappearing and foreign countries rapidly increasing their manufacturing activities. Is manufacturing in the U.S., therefore, doomed?

Dr. Mike Walden, North Carolina Cooperative Extension economist in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State University, responds:

"Not at all, and I would argue this is one of the bigger myths in our economy. Actually, the United States is still - still - number one in manufacturing output. That is, if you measure everything that we manufacture - that comes out of a factory door - we manufacture more than any other country, including China. And, indeed, our manufacturing output has actually been going up rather than down. We manufacture more today than we ever have in our history. Now, I think what confuses people is that manufacturing employment has been going down. Actually, it's been going down in most areas of the world, but that's due to the fact that manufacturing workers are becoming more productive. They can do more. They're responsible for more output. So, yes, there are fewer people in the factory, but each of those people is responsible for making much more factory output and, therefore, we're seeing total output going up. So I see big, long life for manufacturing, both in the U.S. as well as in North Carolina. But it will be a different kind of manufacturing, and it will be a manufacturing where the workers are very well trained and very productive."

Posted by Dave at November 19, 2008 08:00 AM