Harvard economics professor Greg Mankiw, writing in the New York Times, dispelled the manufacturing-is-dead myth trotted out during the presidential campaign. He pointed out that manufacturing output has never been higher. And even with a 29% drop in employment over the last two decades, manufacturing still accounts for just shy of 12.3 million jobs. Only three other private industry sectors employ more workers.
But what about manufacturing establishments, the plants and factories and mills that make a crazy number of different products? The US had 33,000 fewer manufacturing establishments in 2015 than 2004, but from 2011 to 2015, there was a slight uptick in establishments—along with a 5% increase in manufacturing jobs.
We used Emsi data and Tableau to visualize the growth and decline of manufacturing establishments by state. One of the takeaways from our analysis is not every state adding manufacturing jobs is seeing a corresponding increase in establishments. That’s especially the case in Indiana, Wisconsin, and Ohio—states with some of the highest shares of manufacturing jobs per capita.
Note: We recently added historical business establishments by broad or detailed industry in our labor market research software. Contact us to learn about this new feature and our other regional data.
The Top States for Manufacturing Establishment Growth
The last few years have mostly been a growth period for manufacturing. Seven states increased their manufacturing labor forces by at least 10% from 2011-2015, led by Michigan (15%), and 35 other states saw increases of some kind.
Manufacturing establishment growth wasn’t as widespread. Only 20 states added plants and factories from 2011-2015, with Florida and Michigan lapping the field in raw growth.
Florida upped its establishment count by over 1,400 (an 8% increase) and Michigan’s rose 1,300-plus (10%). Illinois, the next state on the list, grew its total manufacturing establishments by 887 (5%).
California came in fourth, with 853 establishments added. But it also has nearly twice as many total manufacturing establishments (41,000) as the state with the second-most, Texas (23,000).
The Bottom States
As we hinted at earlier, establishment counts took a hit in some of the most manufacturing-dependent states. Of the 10 states with the highest concentration (location quotient) of manufacturing jobs, six had fewer manufacturing establishments in 2015 than 2011.
Indiana and Wisconsin, Nos. 1 and 2 in concentration, saw 4% drops in manufacturing establishments (over 350 each). Indiana’s decline came at the same time manufacturing jobs rose 12%. Ohio, meanwhile, had the second-highest total loss in establishments (-769, -5%) despite jobs going up 7% from 2011 to 2015.
So the story in the most of the Rust Belt since 2011—Michigan being the major exception—is a drop in establishments and an increase in employment. The rise in jobs, however, comes after years of plant closures and employment declines.
West Coast Grows and Northeast Declines
Manufacturing establishments rose in every state on the West Coast and in the intermountain region except for Arizona, which slightly declined (-37). Utah, Colorado, and Oregon, and Washington were all in the top 10 for raw establishment growth.
On the flip side, the number of manufacturing establishments shrunk in every state in the Northeast. New York had the biggest total loss of plants (-848, -5%) in the US.