American manufacturing jobs “stepped off a cliff” in the 2000s

The loss of manufacturing jobs was particularly significant in the 2000s:

Manufacturing job loss has been a fact of American life since the 1970s, but in the 2000s manufacturing stepped off a cliff, shedding 5.8 million jobs, or about one of every three—most of them before the Great Recession began at the end of 2007. Illinois alone lost 320,900 manufacturing jobs, or 36.6 percent of its total, in the 2000s. Good jobs for those without a college diploma disappeared in the 2000s and generally did not come back. In December of 2000, the ratio of unemployed job seekers to job openings had been 1.1 to 1. At the end of the decade, it spiked to 6.1 to 1. The 2000s was the first recorded decade of zero job growth…

There are still more than 12 million manufacturing jobs in the U.S. and output is as high as ever, and just behind China’s. In an overlooked story, the United States added manufacturing jobs for 12 months in a row in the past year. The gains are modest, but such a winning streak has only happened four times in the last 30 years. Some business elites have shifted their thinking. General Electric’s CEO Jeffrey Immelt wrote in 2012, “Outsourcing that is based only on labor costs is yesterday’s model.”

As the article suggests, the 1970s get a lot of attention for a downward slide in manufacturing jobs but this pattern has held up in other recent decades – until this past year or so. The initial downward slide was certainly important; it led to the work of sociologists like William Julius Wilson who noticed the negative effects on poor urban neighborhoods. But, the loss of manufacturing jobs also has long-term consequences that may still be hard to imagine.

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