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The Factory Floor Has a Ceiling on Job Creation

Wall Street Journal (01/12/12) Wessel, David

While manufacturing employment has grown by 334,000 in the past two years, this column asserts that manufacturing alone is not going to put the U.S. back to work. One reason that manufacturing is up lately is because it was pushed down so far during the recession. The 334,000 increase in factory payrolls follows a decline of 2.3 million in the two years before that.

Manufacturing employs 11.8 million workers, accounting for less than 9% of all the jobs in the U.S. today. Lawrence Katz, a Harvard University labor economist, expects U.S. factories to hire more as the economy improves, but adds, “We don’t expect to restore agriculture as our primary source of employment growth. The same is true for manufacturing.” Modern factory jobs often pay well and are secure, but manufacturing employment is not going to be the chief source of jobs for the next quarter-century, and pretending otherwise is “foolish,” the column concludes.