American manufacturing: Growing–and changing for the better

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In this Nov. 2, 2012 photo, Jenifer Zeleny, center, does a quality-control inspection, as workers manufacture cables used in wind turbines, inside the...
In this Nov. 2, 2012 photo, Jenifer Zeleny, center, does a quality-control inspection, as workers manufacture cables used in wind turbines, inside the...
AP Photo/Brennan Linsley

Despite what was considered a disappointing March jobs report with only 88,000 jobs added, there were a couple of bright spots. One was the manufacturing sector, which added 50,000 jobs over the last three years. “What is interesting about the manufacturing renaissance this time around, it is not your grandfather’s manufacturing or your father’s manufacturing,” Rana Faroohar of Time magazine said. “The other thing to remember is that every dollar created in the manufacturing sector creates $1.50 in the rest of the economy. That’s different than any other sector.”

For the first time in more than a decade, the U.S. is actually out-pacing other countries in manufacturing jobs. According to Faroohar, this is because cheaper U.S. energy price–and higher shipping and labor costs in other markets–have made the economics of outsourcing less appealing.  Another factor? Productivity.  ”American workers are certainly more expensive than the Chinese but they are also more productive. And their productivity has also been growing faster,” Faroohar said.

Manufacturing jobs only occupy 9% of the workforce, so why are they so vital? “It is 9%: but that counts people who are literally just in factories,” Faroohar said. There are “all kinds of jobs that don’t get tallied in those figures. And then as I said there is the effect on the greater community. When a factory comes to a town, we all know this, there is a boom in the rest of the community, and creating those kinds of ecosystems are really important to creating more inclusive growth.”
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American manufacturing: Growing--and changing for the better

Updated