1. American manufacturing is coming back. Manufacturing jobs aren’t.
A new study from the McKinsey Global Institute published Monday morning adds some welcome clarity. In 184 pages, the in-house think tank of the global consulting giant presents a picture of manufacturing as among the most dynamic sectors of the U.S. and global economies, driving higher productivity and standards of living. But it also shows that what we usually think of as a traditional manufacturing job isn’t coming back.
Manufacturing contributed 20 percent of the growth in global economic output in the decade ending in 2010, the McKinsey researchers estimate, and 37 percent of global productivity growth from 1995 to 2005. Yet the sector actually subtracted 24 percent from employment in advanced nations.
“Manufacturing makes outsized contributions to GDP. It makes outsized contributions to overall productivity growth. It drives prosperity,” said James Manyika, one of the authors of the report. “But purely on employment, it has been declining over time.”
It is a story of robotics and other technologies improving at a remarkable rate, eliminating the need for factory floors crowded with workers doing manual labor. In the newest factories, one can look across an airplane hangar-sized floor and see only a small handful of technicians staring at computer screens, monitoring the work of the machines. Workers lifting and pushing and riveting are nowhere to be seen.