IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

US Manufacturing: Understanding Its Past and Its Potential Future

  • Martin Neil Baily
  • Barry P. Bosworth

The development of the US manufacturing sector over the last half-century displays two striking and somewhat contradictory features: 1) the growth of real output in the US manufacturing sector, measured by real value added, has equaled or exceeded that of total GDP, keeping the manufacturing share of the economy constant in price-adjusted terms; and 2) there is a long-standing decline in the share of total employment attributable to manufacturing. The persistence of these trends seems inconsistent with stories of a recent or sudden crisis in the US manufacturing sector. After all, as recently as 2010, the United States had the world's largest manufacturing sector measured by its valued-added, and while it has now been surpassed by China, the United States remains a very large manufacturer. On the other hand, there are some potential causes for concern. First, though manufacturing's output share of GDP has remained stable over 50 years, and manufacturing retains a reputation as a sector of rapid productivity improvements, this is largely due to the spectacular performance of one subsector of manufacturing: computers and electronics. Second, recently there has been a large drop in the absolute level of manufacturing employment that many find alarming. Third, the US manufacturing sector runs an enormous trade deficit, equaling $460 billion in 2012, which is also very concentrated in trade with Asia. Finally, we consider the future evolution of the manufacturing sector and its importance for the US economy. Many of the largest US corporations continue to shift their production facilities overseas. It is important to understand why the United States is not perceived to be an attractive base for their production.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 28 (2014)
Issue (Month): 1 (Winter)
Pages: 3-26

in new window

Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:28:y:2014:i:1:p:3-26
Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.28.1.3
Contact details of provider: Web page:

More information through EDIRC

Order Information: Web:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Lawrence Edwards & Robert Z. Lawrence, 2013. "Rising Tide: Is Growth in Emerging Economies Good for the United States?," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 5003.
  2. Koopman, Robert & Wang, Zhi & Wei, Shang-Jin, 2012. "Estimating domestic content in exports when processing trade is pervasive," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(1), pages 178-189.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:28:y:2014:i:1:p:3-26. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Jane Voros)

or (Michael P. Albert)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.