When looking at the long term data, USA manufacturing output continues to increase. For decades people have been repeating the claim that the manufacturing base is eroding. It has not been true. I realize the economy is on weak ground today, I am not talking about that, I am looking at the long term trends.
The USA manufactures more than anyone else – by far. The percentage of total global manufacturing is the same today it was two decades ago (and further back as well). For decades people have been saying the USA has lost the manufacturing base – it just is not true. No matter how many times they say it does not make it true. It is true since 2000 the USA increase in manufacturing output (note not a decrease) has not kept pace with global grown in manufacturing output (global output in that period is up 47% and the USA is up 19% – Japan is down 10% for that period).
I would guess 20 years from today the USA will have a lower percentage of worldwide manufacturing. But I don’t see any reason believe the USA will see a decline in total manufacturing output. I just think the rest of the world is likely to grow manufacturing output more rapidly.
Looking at a year or even 2 or 3 years of manufacturing output data leaves a great deal of room to see trends where really just random variation exists. Even for longer periods trends are hard to project into the future.
Conventional wisdom is correct about China growing manufacturing output tremendously. China has grown from 4% of the output of the largest manufacturing companies in 1990 to manufacturing 16% of the total output in China today. That 12% had to come from other’s shares. And given all you hear from the general press, financial press, politicians, commentators… you would think the USA must have much less than China today, so may 10% and maybe they had 20% in 1990. When actually in 1990 the USA had 28% and in 2007 they had 27%.
Manufacturing jobs are not moving oversees. Manufacturing jobs are decreasing everywhere.
Those that decry the declining manufacturing base often say this rips out the heart of the economy and the future is in danger. They are correct that the future USA economy is in danger. However, it is not due to declining manufacturing output. As the data show that is increasing. The declining manufacturing jobs does cause challenges for economic growth (as many people face personal financial problems). But this is true for all other countries as well. And appears to be a trend that will continue – just as economies had to deal with the incredible shrinking of agricultural employment.
While some focus on manufacturing health is wise. It is an important part of any economy. And is particularly important when you (like the USA is) are the largest in the world by far. The main focus needs to be on much better management () and on the right focus for economic development (Engineering the Future Economy – Economics, Politics and Science Research).
The real problem with the USA economy is that a country cannot live beyond its means forever. Those living in USA have consumed far more than they have produced for decades. That is not sustainable. The living beyond our means is mainly due to massively increased consumption not shrinking output (in manufacturing or service). One, of many examples, of the increased consumption is average square footage of single-family homes in the USA: 1950 – 983; 1970 – 1,500; 1990 – 2,080; 2004 – 2,349.
In case it isn’t totally obvious to you. You don’t fix this problem by encouraging more spending and borrowing: either by the government or by consumers. I will continue this in another post…
Related: $2,540,000,000,000 in USA Consumer Debt – Manufacturing Jobs – Toyota in the USA Economy – Global Manufacturing Jobs Data by Country – Bad Management Results in Layoffs – Ford and Managing the Supplier Relationship – Stop Demotivating Employees