We constantly hear about the “decline of U.S. manufacturing” and how America “doesn’t make anything anymore.” The reality is that the United States produces a lot of manufacturing output. In 2009, America produced more manufacturing output than the manufacturing output of the countries of Germany, Italy, France, U.K., Brazil and S. Korea combined. And one of the reasons that America has been the world’s leading manufacturing nation for more than one hundred years is the continually increasing productivity of our manufacturing workers.
The chart above helps to tell the story of rising worker productivity in America’s manufacturing sector based on new GDP (value-added by industry) data released last week
by the Bureau of Economic Analysis for 2010. Between 1947 and 1980 real manufacturing output per worker doubled from $35,000 to $70,000, and since 1980 output per worker has more than doubled to almost $150,000 in 2010, a new record high. The ongoing gains in the productivity and efficiency of American manufacturing workers allow the U.S. to produce ever greater amounts of manufacturing output with fewer workers, and that’s a sign of a thriving and vital industry, not an industry in decline.
MP: In 2010, manufacturing output per worker increased to almost $149,000 from $135,000 per worker in 2009, for a 10.3% increase. That's the largest annual increase in U.S. manufacturing worker productivity going back to at least 1947, and follows a 7.85% increase in 2009.