Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

We still make things here, as new research showcases.

We don't make anything here anymore.

The jobs are gone, and they aren't coming back.

There's no future in manufacturing.

Those are just a few of the myths we here at the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) sadly hear regularly about American manufacturing — and we bet you've heard a few of them, too.  

We spend a lot of time trying to debunk them. Turns out, the team at the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI) Foundation also hears these misguided notions quite a bit, and the organization is out with a new report that does a little myth busting. MAPI focused on four key myths:

  • Myth No. 1: U.S. Manufacturing is in Decline. While there's no doubt that the United States has lost manufacturing jobs in recent years — at least 3.2 million jobs have been outsourced to China since 2001, and between 2000 and 2010 the sector shed 5.7 million jobs — it is a misnomer to say that American manufacturing is on the brink of extinction, as has been portrayed in some media accounts. As MAPI notes, the U.S. remains a "major force in global manufacturing." If the sector was its own economy, it would be the seventh largest in the world. The total manufacturing value chain could be as high as $5.5 trillion. About 17 percent of global manufacturing activity happens in the United States, and America dominates advanced manufacturing. On the job front, nearly 9 percent of the workforce is employed in manufacturing — still a pretty good percentage.
     
  • Myth No. 2: Manufacturing is a Poor Career Choice. You've heard these myths, no doubt. Factory work is dirty and dangerous, and unstable in the long term. But as MAPI highlights, manufacturing actually as a lower rate of job turnover than jobs in nonmanufacturing. Manufacturing jobs pay 16 percent higher than service sector jobs — and a manufacturing job is more likely to include benefits. U.S. manufacturing also employs a large percentage of STEM workers — 37 percent of architecture and engineering workers and 16 percent of all life, physical and social scientists. 
     
  • Myth No. 3: U.S. Manufacturing Isn't Needed. This comes from the idea that since countries like China make most of our apparel and consumer electronics, American manufacturing just isn't needed anymore. This, of course, is wrong — the service sector alone isn't going to keep the economy rolling. Without manufacturing, the U.S. would lack innovation, including things like robots and 3D printers and other technologies. Research and development also would lag — manufacturing R&D is four to five times greater than nonmanufacturing R&D. Even the most ardent free traders also must admit that manufacturing is needed to realize the gains from trade; without the money generated from exports, the U.S. would have a hard time affording the goods we import.
     
  • Myth No. 4: Manufacturing is Unduly Harmful to the Environment. Think of a picture of a factory. You probably imagine smokestacks spewing pollution into the sky. But American manufacturing facilities today operate under strict environmental standards and have worked hard to reduce their carbon footprint. Air pollution emissions from U.S. manufacturing fell by 60 percent from 1990 to 2008, despite an increase in output. 

The entire report is worth checking out — and will help you answer back when you hear folks spreading manufacturing myths.