U.S. manufacturing has grown 11% over the last generation

Jun 13, 2017

A new report from Ball State University says that contrary to public perception, U.S. manufacturing and logistics industries experienced dramatic growth over the past generation.

U.S. manufacturing production grew 11 percent since the dot.com bust (2000-03) and the ensuing economic turbulence of the 2001 and 2007-09 recessions, according to Manufacturing and Logistics: A Generation of Volatility & Growth, released today by the Ball State Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) and Conexus Indiana.

“According to folklore, this has been a terrible generation for manufacturing and those who move goods,” said CBER director Michael Hicks, George and Frances Ball Distinguished professor of economics and business research. “That isn’t really what the data says."

“Most of the confusion about manufacturing and logistics is due to declining employment over the past generation,” Hicks said. “The fact is, manufacturing firms have become very lean, and productivity growth means more goods produced with fewer workers.”

According to the report, three factors contribute to a decline in employment: the workforce is better educated and trained, increasing productivity; mechanization has displaced some workers; and improved processes, such Lean Six Sigma and other management methods, have increased manufacturing production. 

Since peak manufacturing employment in 1979, the United States has lost approximately 7.5 million manufacturing jobs but gained more than 9 million jobs in trade, transportation and utilities, the broadest measure of the logistics industry.  

The reports can be downloaded from the CBER website.