The Amazing Shrinking Manufacturing Base

My friend and fellow Twitter traveler @speedmaster posts the following snippet of a WSJ article:

Amateur Economist: Weve Become a Nation of Takers, Not Makers.

The rise in “government jobs” is pretty spectacular. But then, it shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise to Rochestarians, should it? When the University of Rochester is the number 1 employer?

I think the more shocking number in the article defines the depression of the manufacturing base. Over the course of the fifty year period described by the article, the population of the United States has doubled. The number of people working in the government has nearly tripled, but the number of people working in manufacturing has actually declined. Logically, the number of people working in manufacturing aught to be around thirty million (15m x 2) , but its a third of that number.

What are the prime movers of this change? The original article cites the “the offer of near lifetime security” in government jobs and also makes a demuring nod to “hugely beneficial productivity improvements” in other sectors of the economy. Well, gosh. Didn’t it use to be the case that manufacturing workers had nearly the same security in that less-efficient world? So the private sector has traded respecting and taking care of its workers for “efficiency,” but we need to do something about government jobs, or so the article suggests.

Its also worth pointing out that the article only compares manufacturing to government jobs, as though these were the only two sectors – and as if a “government job” was a single thing. What about if we take service industry jobs into account? Bloomberg just posted an article yesterday saying that the service industry is the fastest-growing sector of our economy.  A quick look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ break down of the current economy by occupation (admittedly, not recent) shows that the majority of those occupations are service jobs.

And yes, many “government jobs” such as nursing and social services jobs are service-related. Nor should we be surprised that, after decades of telling our kids to go to college, that they end up working in non-manufacturing jobs.

And to end the article, the writer suggests:

President Obama says we have to retool our economy to “win the future.” The only way to do that is to grow the economy that makes things, not the sector that takes things.

Here, here.

By Tommy Belknap

Owner, developer, editor of DragonFlyEye.Net, Tom Belknap is also a freelance journalist for The 585 lifestyle magazine. He lives in the Rochester area with his wife and son.