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50 Manufacturing Sectors That GREW Over The Past 10 Years

September 21, 2011 by Rob Sentz

So we all know that US manufacturing is hemorrhaging jobs. As domestic income and production costs increase, it makes it increasingly difficult for US manufacturers to keep their operations in-country.

However, manufacturing is a very important generator of capital and without it our economy would have to find new ways to bring much-needed export-based dollars into our economy. Lately, as this recent WSJ post points out, we are seeing improving output in manufacturing.

So here is a quick look at 50 manufacturing sectors that actually gained jobs from 2001-2011. This is the first in a series of posts on the topic. Next we will take a closer look at the relationship between jobs and exports to see if jobs really is the best metric for measuring the overall health of the sector.

Below is a table of the 50 sectors that grew from ’01-11. Here are some basic observations about the list:

  • Ethyl alcohol manufacturing – The US has become a massive consumer of ethanol, which is based on federal regulations aimed at domestic fuel consumption. The industry currently employs about 11,000 workers and grew by 227% in 10 years. No other industry comes close in terms of percentage growth. This is a great illustration of how government intervention can actually “create jobs.” But here is a caveat —  increased regulation has resulted in rising gas and corn prices, which likely cancel out economic gains from employment growth. Also note, regulations tend to influence economic behavior far more than stimulus spending (contrast demand for ethanol with the Solyndra example).
  • Plastic packaging manufacturing – This sector grew by 143% over the last 10 years. It is a fairly small sector with only 233 establishments and 14,300 employees. This sector is related to the food industry at large (packaging for foods); all told, 40% of the top 50 industries are food related.
  • Military armored vehicle, tank, and tank component manufacturing – This sector grew by 84%, and much like ethyl alcohol, can be explained as a result of government activity. There are only 80 establishments that produce under this category, but they added about 5,000 workers. Also, just over 20% of the companies on the list are related to aerospace and defense.
  • Wineries – Wineries gained some 22,000 jobs and grew by 82% in the last 10 years. Since 2008, during a down economy, wineries’ growth slowed to 4.1%. One would imagine that the demand for something like wine would actually decrease as the economy tanks. About 50,000 people work at wineries. Data from the federal government indicates about 2,700 establishments, but wine-related publications report that there are currently about 5,000-6,000 domestic wineries. Our establishment figures are from QCEW, so they don’t include small nonemployer/proprietor operations. Also, wine industry publications include something called “virtual wineries” which don’t actually own facilities or equipment, so that helps explain the discrepancy too. Overall in the U.S. wineries are still expanding in almost all 50 states, wine consumption is increasing, and global demand for U.S. wines remains healthy.

Other observations:

  • Machine shops, which has the highest level of employment for our top 50 and 21,000 establishments, grew by 2% and added about 6,400 jobs.
  • Manufacturing related to health care is doing well – For instance surgical and medical instrument manufacturing grew by 12% or 13,000 jobs; in-vitro diagnostic substance manufacturing grew by 55% or 7,400 jobs, and electromedical and electrotherapeutic apparatus manufacturing grew by 8,000 jobs or 15%. Not really any surprises here.

Surprising industries:

  • Digital printing (nearly 50% growth and 10,000 jobs) and sign manufacturing (nearly 7,000 jobs and 7% growth) really surprised us. We are wondering if all those signs are related to all the road construction that came from ARRA spending.
  • Cut stone and stone product manufacturing grew by 17% or 3,700 jobs, which appears to be the only industry on the list directly related to construction.
  • Women’s and girls’ cut and sew blouse and shirt manufacturing grew by 47% or 3,600 jobs, which seems impressive given the downfall of textiles. Interestingly, the cut & sew apparel mfg. industry growth is almost entirely in Los Angeles. The industry was declining nationally until 2007 when it took a sharp turn upward. Due to the small number of big employers involved, it could be (we would have to research it a bit more) an instance where one company like American Apparel decides to change its NAICS, leading to a drop in one industry code and rise in another, closely related industry code. Either way, American Apparel’s success is a small counter-current in the overall implosion of the US textile industry.
NAICS CodeDescription2001 Jobs2011 JobsChange% Change2011 Earnings2010 Establishments
325193Ethyl Alcohol Manufacturing3,27210,6957,423227%$87,647276
326112Plastics Packaging Film and Sheet (including Laminated) Manufacturing5,87914,2968,417143%$66,570233
336992Military Armored Vehicle, Tank, and Tank Component Manufacturing5,50110,1344,63384%$93,32281
332995Other Ordnance and Accessories Manufacturing3,7116,2192,50868%$84,804103
311991Perishable Prepared Food Manufacturing24,58438,98814,40459%$37,677927
332992Small Arms Ammunition Manufacturing7,36711,4674,10056%$61,053104
325413In-Vitro Diagnostic Substance Manufacturing13,44420,8097,36555%$109,505352
323115Digital Printing20,89430,8099,91547%$53,9792,292
315232Women's and Girls' Cut and Sew Blouse and Shirt Manufacturing7,76811,4213,65347%$41,919188
327992Ground or Treated Mineral and Earth Manufacturing4,7916,7932,00242%$87,941164
333132Oil and Gas Field Machinery and Equipment Manufacturing48,32766,55018,22338%$96,4391,211
311942Spice and Extract Manufacturing16,12621,8425,71635%$74,973494
337212Custom Architectural Woodwork and Millwork Manufacturing15,11620,2185,10234%$55,8431,214
311221Wet Corn Milling9,18512,0772,89231%$96,26172
311920Coffee and Tea Manufacturing13,40917,4684,05930%$60,660528
331528Other Nonferrous Foundries (except Die-Casting)6,3338,2491,91630%$76,921137
333611Turbine and Turbine Generator Set Units Manufacturing22,74629,4456,69929%$99,042341
311830Tortilla Manufacturing15,22418,9183,69424%$38,396488
326111Plastics Bag and Pouch Manufacturing28,21634,0305,81421%$59,330462
311813Frozen Cakes, Pies, and Other Pastries Manufacturing9,47811,2811,80319%$46,083216
311512Creamery Butter Manufacturing1,8952,25435919%$62,66343
311911Roasted Nuts and Peanut Butter Manufacturing11,55913,5782,01917%$50,479233
327991Cut Stone and Stone Product Manufacturing21,89325,6103,71717%$47,8512,231
332994Small Arms Manufacturing9,81911,4311,61216%$65,130278
334510Electromedical and Electrotherapeutic Apparatus Manufacturing54,33662,4328,09615%$106,6021,054
331492Secondary Smelting, Refining, and Alloying of Nonferrous Metal (except Copper and Aluminum)9,70211,1471,44515%$81,555257
325414Biological Product (except Diagnostic) Manufacturing24,19427,7913,59715%$116,275400
332420Metal Tank (Heavy Gauge) Manufacturing26,16329,9533,79014%$64,543828
339112Surgical and Medical Instrument Manufacturing107,547120,42112,87412%$101,2111,830
325920Explosives Manufacturing6,5277,29877112%$79,79593
334517Irradiation Apparatus Manufacturing11,70813,0691,36112%$111,532326
311513Cheese Manufacturing38,11642,3964,28011%$56,825561
336611Ship Building and Repairing92,336101,1958,85910%$75,497778
336415Guided Missile and Space Vehicle Propulsion Unit and Propulsion Unit Parts Manufacturing12,08713,2241,1379%$112,09771
339950Sign Manufacturing92,39298,9646,5727%$50,4936,804
311111Dog and Cat Food Manufacturing19,62521,0101,3857%$72,642378
332410Power Boiler and Heat Exchanger Manufacturing21,95023,4501,5007%$78,614357
311225Fats and Oils Refining and Blending6,0366,3062704%$63,673138
339116Dental Laboratories49,80751,8412,0344%$52,5347,513
311941Mayonnaise, Dressing, and Other Prepared Sauce Manufacturing13,74514,2505054%$58,071308
311412Frozen Specialty Food Manufacturing56,14657,9341,7883%$47,479590
336414Guided Missile and Space Vehicle Manufacturing53,36755,0361,6693%$136,988209
332710Machine Shops272,253278,6226,3692%$57,11521,108
311612Meat Processed from Carcasses110,138112,4302,2922%$48,6041,568
336413Other Aircraft Parts and Auxiliary Equipment Manufacturing99,164100,5481,3841%$83,5881,563
334511Search, Detection, Navigation, Guidance, Aeronautical, and Nautical System and Instrument Manufacturing149,042150,8621,8201%$118,0951,217
311822Flour Mixes and Dough Manufacturing from Purchased Flour15,49515,6421471%$56,193290
327410Lime Manufacturing4,2064,242361%$74,38888
Source: EMSI Complete Employment - 2011.3

For fun we have included a more in-depth look at two of the top industries: ethyl alcohol manufacturing and wineries. Images and data come from Analyst.


Here is a look at the occupations that staff the sector. Chemical plant and systems operators compose 14% of the workforce.

In this chart you can see the very rapid growth that the ethyl alcohol manufacturing sector has experienced. Note: the dotted line after 2011 indicates projected growth given current industry trends.


Here is a quick look at the staffing pattern for wineries. Eleven percent of the workers in wineries are working as packaging and filling machine operators and tenders.

Finally, here is the trend line. Again, the projected line is based on historic trends and should not be thought of as a “forecast.”

Manufacturing in the U.S. still remains in flux. Most sectors are still shedding jobs, and there is a lot of discussion about how to turn domestic manufacturing around. In subsequent posts we will be bringing the concept of exports into the equation. Stay tuned.

If you would like to look at other sectors, please contact us.

Post by Rob Sentz. Illustration by Mark Beauchamp.

Rob Sentz

Chief Innovation Officer


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