Mike the Mad Biologist

We Do Too Make Stuff

Like driftglass, I’m getting tired of hearing that we should just let industry die because we don’t make anything anymore. That’s simply not true:

employment

Those 13.4 million people are doing something.

Comments

  1. #1 llewelly
    November 29, 2008

    … and in many important cases, unsalable ‘light trucks’ can be scrapped for raw materials.

  2. #2 Cath the Canberra Cook
    November 29, 2008

    “We” means the USA, it seems. And your table appears to be missing units; there’s no obvious 13.4 million. Of course, it can be worked out, using the assumption that you are correct. The significant figures do turn up in the line labelled manufacturing. Prezntashun skillz: u tries hardr plzkthnx. :)

  3. #3 A
    December 4, 2008

    The products of manufacturing are (almost) the only ones which can be exported, so as to make up for the huge amount of stuff the U.S. imports (others are farm products, some minerals; certain services); most services and clearly construction can not be exported. That makes manufacturing even more important, as an economy importing all the goods it consumes is clearly not sustainable.–
    One problem the U.S. now faces is the required restructuring of the economy, away from home construction and financial services(which were in a bubble during the last few years, occupying too much of the labor force and investment) towards manufacturing of exportable goods.(That is unless the U.S. wants to become like a developing country with all assets owned by foreign entities).
    This transition is not helped by the current strength of the U.S. dollar (which makes U.S. goods expensive elsewhere) and the wholesale abandonment of many manufacturing industries during the last 20 years (such as the big 3 auto makers practically ceding the market for small to mid-size cars to the Japanese and Koreans).
    Some such industries are not easily resuscitated or replaced.(Hi-tech, as it employs not so many people, is no panacea here; how many employees does Intel compared with GM?)

  4. #4 Kaleberg
    December 8, 2008

    Yes, we still make things, but manufacturing accounts for maybe 10% of all jobs nowadays. It used to account for about 40%, but this has been falling since 1900 with a long rapid descent starting at the end of WWII. Most of the cause is not foreign competition, but rather increased efficiency. This has led not only to fewer manufacturing jobs, but structural changes as well.

    In the 1990s white good manufacturers, the folks who make washers, refrigerators, driers and that kind of stuff, roughly quadrupled the number of machines they could make with one hour of labor. Some of this was robotics. Some was improved information technology and inventory management. Some of it was product redesign. It all added up. Not only do we get just as many washers and driers as ever, we have a lot fewer people making them. It isn’t just the workers either. There are only three or four companies making this kind of product these days. If efficiency continues to improve, we can imagine that a mere handful of factories could make enough washers and driers for the entire world, and that includes places where such appliances are uncommon today.

    We still have the challenge of finding jobs for people so they can afford to buy such appliances, and we have a related challenge of finding other things for people to buy once they have all the washers, driers and the like that they can use.

    We also have the challenge of deciding whether we want to have such an industry in our country. There are benefits. Having such a sector provides a base for expanding into new markets. Kidney machines were originally rigged from washing machines. Having people who know how to design and build the appropriate assembly lines gives a nation a basis for future economic growth. There are also military benefits in the event of a global collapse or rupture.

    Yes, we still make things, but we still have a lot of policy decisions to make as fewer and fewer of us make industrial goods.

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