Don’t Depend on Manufacturing Jobs

In my latest post for Next City I’ve reviewed a few policies to encourage manufacturing development. But while manufacturing in America does seem to be experiencing a resurgence, that doesn’t mean manufacturing jobs are. Bruce Springsteen is right: Those jobs are going and they ain’t coming back. (But these days, with Chinese labor costs rising, automation is just as likely to eat  into manufacturing employment.)

But what that means is that high-tech work, rather than the low-skill labor of the 20th century, will comprise an ever greater share of the relatively scarce manufacturing jobs of the future. Further incentives for R&D are likely to accelerate these trends as companies find more ways to automate production.

Brookings’ policy proposals would certainly be good for manufacturers and institutions of higher education, as well as those fortunate enough to land a manufacturing job — and one that isn’t paying $7.50 an hour. Brookings’ experts want manufacturing to “spawn new, good-paying jobs and industries and aid the nation’s recovery through its huge employment multiplier effects.” But there aren’t as many manufacturing jobs as there used to be, no matter how prevalent “re-shoring” becomes, and those that do exist are increasingly stratified into higher skill, highly paid jobs and low-skilled, low paid jobs, like the rest of the American economy.

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