The role of the manufacturing sector in the U.S. economy is more prominent than is suggested solely by its output or number of workers. It is a cornerstone of innovation in our economy: manufacturing firms fund most domestic corporate research and development (R&D), and the resulting innovations and productivity growth improve our standard of living. Manufacturing also drives U.S. exports and is crucial for a strong national defense.
The current economic recovery has witnessed a welcome return in manufacturing job growth. Since its January 2010 low to April 2012, manufacturing employment has expanded by 489,000 jobs or 4% — the strongest cyclical rebound since the dual recessions in the early 1980s. From mid-2009 through the end of February 2012, the number of job openings surged by over 200 percent, to 253,000 openings. Coupled with attrition in the coming years from Baby Boomer retirements, this bodes well for continued hiring opportunities in the manufacturing sector.
The rebound in manufacturing is important, not only as a sign of renewed strength, but also because manufacturing jobs are often cited as good jobs: they pay well, provide good benefits, and manufacturing workers are less likely to quit than workers in other private sector industries. In fact, our analysis finds evidence in support of these claims. Specifically:
In sum, manufacturing jobs provide benefits to workers with higher overall compensation than other sectors, and to the economy through innovation that boosts our nation’s standard of living.