Certain segments of manufacturing are indeed on the upswing, as noted by Joel Kotkin and others. But there’s no getting around this fact: As a proportion of all jobs, the manufacturing sector has dwindled in the last decade.
In 2001, 10.3% of all US jobs were in manufacturing; in 2011, that percentage was 7.1%.
What’s more, analysis of EMSI data showed the manufacturing employment base in every state and Washington, D.C. has shrunk since 2001 and in the last year, when the sector started to experience a revival. This includes Indiana and Wisconsin, the states with the highest percentage of manufacturing jobs in the US. And it includes North and South Carolina, Michigan, and Arkansas, which have had the steepest proportional declines in the last 10 years.
Here are the top five states whose economies, strictly in terms of jobs, are most heavily manufacturing-based:
- Indiana went from 17.6% of all jobs in 2001 classified in manufacturing to 13% in 2011.
- Wisconsin saw a similar dip — from 17% to 12.9%.
- Ten years ago, Iowa ranked 12th on this list. Now, thanks to a smaller decline by comparison than others at the top (2.5% since ’01), it sits in the top three.
- Arkansas dropped 5.5% (from 15.7% to 10.2%) in the last decade.
- Michigan, with the well-known drop in auto manufacturing before a recent resurgence, also saw a 5.5% dip, most of which came before 2007.
It should be mentioned, even with its decline in the percentage of overall jobs, manufacturing has made tremendous leaps in productivity in recent years and is a crucial wage-boosting sector. EMSI Chief Economist Hank Robison wrote about this in early 2011: “Less-skilled work continues to flow out of the US, but the work that remains is higher-skilled, and more productive. Accordingly, the manufacturing jobs that remain in the US pay well.”
States with Smallest Declines
On the other end of the spectrum, the states with the most modest declines are sparsely populated — Alaska, Hawaii, North Dakota, and Wyoming. In each, manufacturing as a proportion all of jobs has dropped by 1.2% or less. But it should be noted that these states — plus DC and a few others — have traditionally had smaller manufacturing employment bases than the aforementioned states.
In the last year, Vermont, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, and Maine have seen the most severe drop-offs in the proportion of manufacturing jobs in their state economies — all .60% or more. The smallest decline, meanwhile, belongs to Oklahoma, at .07%.
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If Not Manufacturing?
So with manufacturing taking up less of the employment pie in every state, what sectors have grown as a proportion of all jobs? Government remains the clear (and consistent) top sector nationally; it made up 13.59% of all jobs in 2001 and an estimated 13.61% in 2011. And health care & social assistance has jumped retail trade and manufacturing to gain the No. 2 spot (11.12% of all jobs). The next biggest gains came in real estate (.90%) and finance & insurance (.80%).
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Illustration by Mark Beauchamp.