Although we frequently hear claims that the US manufacturing sector is dying or in a state of decline, manufacturing output in the US, except during and following periods of economic contraction like the Great Recession, has continued to increase over time, and reached the highest level of output ever recorded in 2014.
What has been in a steady state of decline is the number of manufacturing workers needed to produce the increasing amount of manufacturing output as the blue line in the chart above shows.
People love to talk about how bad U.S. manufacturing is. It’s complete crap.
As the chart above shows, U.S. manufacturing is doing just fine. In fact, it’s just about the best it’s ever been. But, as the chart also shows, manufacturing jobs are completely evaporating.
As I talked about in my piece Corporations Don’t Want Employees, this isn’t a sign of things going badly. It’s a sign of things going exactly as planned.
The goal of U.S. manufacturing is to create output, not to create jobs. When you conflate manufacturing productivity and manufacturing jobs you’re either ignorant or you’re a liar, and in the case of politicians it’s always the latter.
Manufacturing companies are working as quickly as possible to replace their human workers with technology, and the faster they can do that the more they can produce. That’s a good thing for those companies, and it’s a good thing for America.
America also needs jobs, but it’s not the role of companies to provide jobs. It’s their job to produce their product or service as efficiently as possible, and that means (in most cases) without people.
So, a few things to remember the next time you’re in this discussion with someone:
- No, U.S. manufacturing isn’t suffering—it’s actually thriving.
- The reason the manufacturing jobs are going away is because the companies have replaced most of their workers with software and machines, and that isn’t a problem to be fixed, it’s a victory to be celebrated.
- The jobs aren’t coming back because it’d be moving U.S. manufacturing backwards instead of forwards.
- The role of U.S. manufacturing is making goods to sell, not making jobs.
- If you think it’s industry’s responsibility to make jobs then you’re sadly mistaken about how business works. Human jobs are only there because they’re necessary, and the moment they’re not, any good businessperson will eliminate them. That’s precisely what’s happening right now.
- Manufacturing is not a jobs solution, and anyone telling you otherwise is either a fool or a liar.
- Saving manufacturing jobs is like saving Taxi company phone operator jobs. They went away for a good reason, and now that we have software like Uber and Lyft to do the role, going back to the old way would be a massive downgrade. People used to make a living by taking you up and down in elevators, too. Let it go. The future is ahead of us, not behind.