Manufacturing Jobs as a Percentage of Total U.S. Workforce since 1939: Chart

Manufacturing jobs in the US have been on the decline for many decades now. Currently manufacturing jobs account for 8.4% of the total US workforce.

Click to enlarge

Source: What Are the Risks of a U.S.-China Trade War?, U.S. Funds

Since millions of jobs have been lost over the year, it would be a herculean task to bring them back. Moreover many of these jobs have disappeared due to automation as well. However there are still opportunities to have more week-paying manufacturing jobs in the U.S. For example, the much-hyped Apple (AAPL) company makes almost all of their computers and iphones in foreign countries. Moving those jobs to the U.S. could be done either by the state or consumers themselves by boycotting its products.

From a post at FT Alphaville earlier this month:

Strictly speaking, it’s impossible to answer this question. Human societies are extraordinarily complex systems nobody really seems to understand. We can’t credibly say we have any idea what the world would look like today if we’d made a few tweaks over the past few decades.

That said, we thought it might be interesting to imagine what things might have looked like if the proportion of American demand for manufactured goods satisfied by domestic production had remained constant since 1990.

One potential interpretation: almost half of the total decline in manufacturing employment — more than 2 million reasonably well-paying American jobs — might be explained by imports displacing domestic production. (The rest would have been lost to machines.)

 There are lots of conceptual challenges with this analysis — a lot of ins, a lot of outs, a lot of what-have-yous, as it were. That’s because it’s unclear which (or how many) combinations of policies could have kept the import share of domestic spending on manufactured goods constant. These various policy combinations could easily have produced other consequences altering the trend of domestic spending and rendering the entire analysis moot.

For example, the share of American manufacturing output destined for export rose significantly since 1990. Had the US government imposed constraints on imports, the rest of the world might have retaliated with restrictions of its own. We looked at a few different scenarios, including one where the export and import shares were both held fixed since 1990, one where US manufacturing exports didn’t grow at all, and one where foreign demand was identical to reality. (This ignores the potential impact on American services exports, which in turn could flow through to overall domestic demand.)

Source: How many US manufacturing jobs were lost to globalisation?, FT Alphaville

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *