The Importance and Promise of American Manufacturing

WASHINGTON, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–April 7, 2011.  Today the Center for American Progress released the report “The Importance and Promise of American Manufacturing: Why It Matters if We Make It in America and Where We Stand Today,” by Michael Ettlinger and Kate Gordon, examining where the United States remains competitive in manufacturing at home and abroad. This report also details why manufacturing remains so important to our economy, our society, our national security, and our ability to remain the world’s science and innovation leader in the 21st century.

Manufacturing is critically important to the American economy, accounting for 12 percent of the U.S. economy and about 11 percent of the private-sector workforce. For generations, the strength of our country rested on the power of our factory floors—both the machines and the men and women who worked them. We need manufacturing to continue to be a bedrock of strength for generations to come. The strength or weakness of American manufacturing carries implications for the entire economy, our national security, and the well-being of all Americans.

The problem today is that any multinational corporations may keep these higher-skill jobs here at home for a period while they move basic manufacturing elsewhere in response to other countries’ subsidies, the search for cheaper labor costs, and the desire for more direct access to overseas markets. Eventually many of these service jobs will follow—along with American leadership in technology and innovation.

Although manufacturing plunged in 2008 and early 2009 along with the rest of the economy, it is on the rebound today while other key economic sectors still languish. Supplying our own needs through a strong domestic manufacturing sector protects us from international economic and political disruptions. Over-reliance on imports and substantial manufacturing trade deficits weaken us in many ways, making us vulnerable to everything from exchange rate fluctuations to trade embargoes to natural disasters.

American manufacturing is, in fact, a success story and it is not a story approaching its end. Notwithstanding employment losses and the relative rise of manufacturing in other countries, the United States led the world in manufacturing value added in 2008 and ranked third in manufacturing exports in 2008. This report argues that domestic manufacturing does matter and we should respond to the challenges facing it, because there is something left to fight for.

Download the full report (pdf)

Download the introduction and summary (pdf)

Michael Ettlinger is the Vice President for Economic Policy and Kate Gordon is the Vice President for Energy Policy at the Center for American Progress.