Walter E. Williams

Let's look at manufacturing. According to Dr. Mark Perry's Department of Labor employment data, in his article "Manufacturing's Death Greatly Exaggerated", U.S. manufacturing employment peaked at 19.5 million jobs in 1979. Since 1979, the manufacturing workforce has shrunk by 40 percent and there's every indication that manufacturing employment will continue to shrink. Before you buy into the call for Congress to do something about manufacturing job loss, there are some other facts to be considered.

According to the Federal Reserve, the dollar value of U.S. manufacturing output in November was $2.72 trillion (in 2000 dollars). Today's manufacturing worker is so productive that the value of his average output is $234,220. Output per worker is three times as high as it was in 1980 and twice as high as it was in 1990. For the year 2008, the Federal Reserve estimates that the value of U.S. manufacturing output was about $3.7 trillion (in 2008 dollars). If the U.S. manufacturing sector were a separate economy, with its own GDP, it would be tied with Germany as the world's fourth richest economy. The GDPs are: U.S. ($14.2 trillion), Japan ($4.9 trillion), China ($4.3 trillion), U.S. manufacturing ($3.7 trillion), Germany ($3.7 trillion), France ($2.9 trillion) and the United Kingdom ($2.7 trillion).

These facts put a lie to claims we hear about how we are a country that "doesn't produce anything anymore," and how we have "outsourced our production to China," and there's been a "demise of U.S. manufacturing." U.S. manufacturing has gone through the same kind of labor-saving technological innovation as agriculture. Should we discard that innovation in the name of saving jobs?


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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