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Thursday, April 05, 2012

Manufacturing Employment Around the World

Matt Yglesias points to this important story in the New York Times (by Eduardo Porter), of which this is one of the really interesting facts: 

"Manufacturers are shedding jobs around the industrial world. Germany lost more than a fifth of its factory jobs from 1991 to 2007, according to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, about the same share as the United States. Japan—the manufacturing behemoth of the 1980s—lost a third."

While countries like China and India are, obviously, adding manufacturing employment, it is not at all unusual for developed countries to lose jobs.  But, as Porter points out, in another important (and, for many people, probably surprising) fact,

"Real value added in manufacturing, the most precise measure of its contribution to the economy, has grown by more than two thirds since its heyday in 1979, when manufacturing employed almost 20 million Americans — eight million more than today."

To be producing much more output with many fewer workers is exactly the path we expect high productivity countries to follow.  If our option is to have less productive workers stuck in manufacturing jobs...well, I, for one, don't want to go there.


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