A new Commerce Department report says the U.S. manufacturing sector has turned a corner, with outputs and exports surpassing pre-recession peaks and employment growing for the first time since 1998.
For the first time in more than 10 years, output and employment are growing steadily, the department’s economics and statistics administration reported.
Manufacturing output has grown by 38 percent since the end of the Great Recession and the sector accounts for 19 percent of the rise in real gross domestic product since then.
Through May, the sector has added 646,000 jobs and manufacturers are actively recruiting to fill another 243,000 positions.
“The steady growth across all three of these areas might have seemed like wishful thinking just a few years ago, when manufacturing was hit especially hard,” the report stated. “Yet manufacturing output and exports have surpassed their pre-recession peaks and employment has begun to grow again for the first time since 1998.”
The news comes as some studies show that the United States is becoming increasingly competitive as a manufacturing ground. Several reports, such as a Bloomberg Businessweek report that ran in April, make the case that the United States is just as cheap for manufacturers as China.
Analysis by the President’s Council of Economic Advisors indicates that this is more than a cyclical rebound. The United States has gained about four times as many manufacturing jobs since 2009 as would be expected from cyclical factors alone.
Nonetheless, although the manufacturing expansion is robust, some industries and U.S. states have fared better than others. About 87 percent of the job gains in manufacturing have been in three durable goods industries: transportation equipment, fabricated metal products and machinery.
Job gains in manufacturing have occurred throughout the country. More than half of the jobs added were in five states: Michigan, Texas, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin.
Foreign investors also are helping to build the U.S. manufacturing sector. As of 2012, total direct investment in the United States from abroad totaled $2.7 trillion, of which $899 billion (34 percent) was placed in the manufacturing sector.