No, U.S. Manufacturing Is Not At An All-Time High

Robert D. Atkinson May 11, 2020
May 11, 2020

Apologists for the status quo paint a Pollyannaish picture of U.S. manufacturing. Emblematic is the National Association of Manufacturers’ claim that “manufacturers have been setting new records when it comes to manufacturing output, and through the first quarter of 2019, the industry has continued to reach new heights.” But this is like saying the movie industry is setting records because box office revenues are at an all-time high. Of course they are because population, GDP and prices grow every year. Iti s hard not to grow in this situation.

Rob Atkinsons explians in American Compass why it's critical for policy makers to respond appropriately to the debate around manufacturing.

Using U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) data for these three measures, the picture is nowhere near as rosy. Measuring growth from 2007 (before the Time of Shedding and Cold Rocks) to 2019, GDP grew by 22 percent, but manufacturing value-added grew just 5.6 percent. As a result, manufacturing’s share of GDP fell from 13.2 percent to 11.4 percent. This also obscures significant differences within sectors. All eight non-durable goods sectors (such as paper, chemicals and plastics) were producing less in 2019 than in 2007 in both absolute and share of GDP terms.