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Manufacturing rebound broad but uneven, report shows

June 20, 2019

Manufacturing growth is helping fuel one of the longest expansions in the U.S., steadily adding jobs since 2010, according to Economic Innovation Group’s (EIG) recent data brief, Manufacturing’s Real But Patchwork Rebound. While manufacturing job growth has risen over the past two years, the report notes that its growth was broad but uneven. Counties in western states saw the highest annual growth rates from December 2016 to December 2018, and the South saw the largest number of new manufacturing jobs over that period: 173,900. However, authors Kenan Fikri and August Benzow also found that after two years of accelerated growth, the U.S. manufacturing sector is showing signs of slowing down.

Food and beverage manufacturing powered the latest two-year surge (84,400 jobs added), while job losses were concentrated in apparel in print-related industries (28,700 jobs lost). Even though the sector has expanded overall, the authors point out that the U.S. economy is still far from recovering manufacturing jobs lost between 2000 and 2010 due to offshoring, automation and the Great Recession. It would take over two decades for total U.S. manufacturing employment to return to 2000 levels if growth remains on the current trajectory. Despite the loss of jobs in the sector, manufacturing’s share of U.S. GDP has grown from 12 percent in 2008 to 16 percent in 2018.

The authors conclude that although the sector has shrunk overall, it is better positioned today to enter into another downturn than it was in 2009.