Manufacturing Stands Out As US Number 1 Industry

November 22
6:00 AM 2016

In the U.S economy, manufacturing continues to be one of the most important bellwethers. The broader U.S. economy will not be able to grow robustly without a rebound in manufacturing. Faster real GDP growth is possible, but not until we get manufacturing humming along strongly once again.

Some analysts have posited that recent improvements show manufacturing is less important to economic growth than it once was. In this thinking, strengths elsewhere more than outweigh weaknesses in the manufacturing sector. After all, they suggest, manufacturing accounts for almost 12% GDP today, down sharply from 31% 50 years ago, and employment in the sector is a smaller share of the total pie.

Manufacturing has the highest multiplier effect of any major sector. For every dollar spent in manufacturing, another $1.81 is added to the economy, and for every manufacturing worker, there are another four employees hired elsewhere. Indeed, shifts in manufacturing can affect the larger economy significantly. More importantly, millions of Americans rely on manufacturing as a path to the middle class. There are 12.3 million manufacturing workers, with average compensation of $81,289 in 2015, including pay and benefits.

Moving beyond the current challenges, the prospects for manufacturing are bright. The United States is seen increasingly as a viable location for global manufacturers, with foreign direct investment in the sector exceeding $1.2 trillion in 2015, an all-time high. In addition, new technologies have the ability to alter radically the way manufacturers innovate, produce and sell their products moving forward, improving efficiency and competitiveness. In fact, manufacturing today is more globally competitive, and I continue to be quite bullish about its long-term prospects in the United States.

That might seem like a no-brainer to many of us who work in the manufacturing sector, but it bears repeating: Pro-growth policies will ensure that manufacturing's best days are ahead of us, lifting economic prospects for everyone.

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