Good news: Americans are making things again, from cars to watches to socks. What’s behind the manufacturing upswing—and what it means for American labor.
Last week, Walmart expanded on the $50 billion Buy American pledge it made last January with a full-fledged Made-in-America summit.
Last year, the manufacturing sector was responsible for 12% of the nation’s total economic output. In Indiana, the state where manufacturing contributes most, the figure was 28.2%. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 states where manufacturing represented the largest total share of the state economy.
The states with the biggest manufacturing economies specialize in different industries. In Oregon, nearly $38 billion of the state’s $50 billion manufacturing sector came from computer and electronic product manufacturing. In Louisiana, more than 10% of the state’s entire economic output in 2011 came from the manufacturing of petroleum and coal-based products. Michigan and Indiana both have sizable auto industries, with Michigan’s auto industry accounting for slightly less than a third of all its manufacturing output in 2011.
During the recession, and in many cases before the recession even started, many states’ manufacturing employment faced steep job losses. Between January 2007 and mid-2009, Indiana lost more than 100,000 manufacturing jobs. In Michigan, nearly 125,000 manufacturing jobs were lost between January 2008 and January 2009 alone.
Now, many of these states have seen employment rebound. Michigan had the fastest job growth in the nation from the end of 2009 to the end of 2011. According to Chad Moutray, chief economist at the National Association of Manufacturers, “the auto sector has been one of the driving sectors in the economy, pardon the pun, over the course of the last couple of years.”
In addition to Michigan, many parts of the Midwest benefited as well, he added. In Indiana, employment has risen more than 3.5% a year for each of the past three years, especially impressive in the context of the nation’s slow job growth overall.
While some believe that the benefits of a potential manufacturing renaissance are largely a myth, Moutray told 24/7 Wall St. that investments in the sector have a positive impact on the economy overall. He also noted that the prospect of added jobs may appeal to many Americans because it jobs pay well.
To identify the 10 states where manufacturing matters, 24/7 Wall St. used state gross domestic product (GDP) figures published by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. We determined from these data which states had the largest percentage of output attributable to manufacturing. Data on specific industries within the manufacturing sector from 2011 represent the most recent available figures. Employment figures for each state come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and are seasonally adjusted.
Seasonally adjusted manufacturing job totals were not available for Alabama and Oklahoma.
These are the 10 states where manufacturing matters.
- MFG share of output: 16.3%
- MFG output 2012: $30 billion (22nd highest)
- 2012 Unemployment rate: 7.3%
More than 16% of Alabama’s $183 billion worth of total output in 2012 came from manufacturing industries, about $30 billion. Last year, much of this output — $16.6 billion worth — came from the manufacturing of durable goods, which in 2012 accounted for 9.1% of total GDP, the ninth-highest percentage in the country. This includes the manufacturing of wood products, nonmetallic mineral products and so forth. News reports suggest a strong tradition of manufacturing in Alabama. Mobile County, for example, will now be the site of Airbus’s new A320 jetliner final assembly line, which will likely be the company’s first U.S.-based production facility. The project, which is scheduled to begin in 2015, is expected to create thousands of jobs, a welcome prospect in the wake of declining manufacturing industries this past decade.
- MFG share of output: 16.5%
- MFG output 2012: $66.2 billion (8th highest)
- 2012 Unemployment rate: 9.1%
Each of the “Big Three” U.S. auto manufacturers — Chrysler, Ford and General Motors — is based in Michigan, and car sales are trending upward. This likely will be critical for the state: motor vehicle manufacturing accounted for nearly 5% of the state’s total GDP in 2011, far more than any other state. Michigan also led the nation with $18.8 billion in motor vehicle manufacturing output in 2011. The resurgence in the auto industry has not only boosted output but also led to job growth. Manufacturing employment in Michigan rose 7.9% between the ends of 2010 and 2011, leading all states, and then by an additional 3.9% between the ends of 2011 and 2012, also among the most in the nation. But this did little to help Detroit avoid a bankruptcy filing since extremely few auto manufacturing jobs exist within the city limits.
- MFG share of output: 16.7%
- MFG output 2012: $25.4 billion (25th highest)
- 2012 Unemployment rate: 5.2%
Iowa had the 30th largest state economy in the nation last year. However, relative to its GDP, Iowa is still one of the nation’s largest manufacturers. This is especially the case for non-durable goods, which accounted for 8.4% of the state’s total output in 2012, the fifth-highest percentage in the nation. In 2011, when non-durable goods manufacturing accounted for 8.3% of Iowa’s output, nearly half of this contribution came from food, beverage and tobacco manufacturing. At 4% of state GDP, this was more than any other state except North Carolina. Despite low crop yields due to drought, Iowa was the leading producer of both corn and soybeans in 2012, according to the USDA.
- MFG share of output: 17.1%
- MFG output 2012: $87.2 billion (5th highest)
- 2012 Unemployment rate: 7.2%
Ohio is a major manufacturer of a range of products. In 2011, it was one of the largest manufacturers of both primary and fabricated metals products, which together accounted for about 3% of the state’s output that year. The state was also the nation’s leader in producing plastics and rubber products, which accounted for more than $5.3 billion in output in 2011, or 1.1% of Ohio’s total output. Likely contributing to Ohio’s high output of manufactured rubber products, the state is home to Goodyear Tire & Rubber, a Fortune 500 company. At the end of 2012, Ohio was one of the top states for manufacturing employment, with roughly 658,000 jobs, trailing only far-larger California and Texas.
- MFG share of output: 17.1%
- MFG output 2012: $29.75 billion (23rd highest)
- 2012 Unemployment rate: 8.2%
In 2011, Kentucky manufactured nearly $4 billion worth of motor vehicles, bodies, trailers and parts, the fifth-largest output in the nation. As of 2011, this manufacturing industry was worth 2.4% of Kentucky’s GDP, the third-largest percentage in the country. In 2011, electrical equipment, appliance, and component manufacturing had an output of only about $1.3 billion the 15th highest, but this may be expected to improve. Louisville is home to the GE Appliance Park, where the company has recently built two new assembly lines. The assembly lines, which cost more than $100 million, will produce high-efficiency washing machines and will create about 200 jobs, in addition to the thousands of jobs GE has created in the region over the past few years with its opening of several other factories.
- MFG share of output: 19.1%
- MFG output 2012: $49.98 billion (12th highest)
- 2012 Unemployment rate: 6.9%
Wisconsin led the nation in paper manufacturing in 2011, with nearly $4 billion in output, which was 1.5% of the state’s total GDP and the third-greatest portion of total output. In 2012, Wisconsin was a large producer of durable goods, which accounted for 11.3% of its GDP, up from 10.7% the previous year, holding on to its fourth place position. In spite of Wisconsin’s high output in the paper industry, the state’s Chamber of Commerce has expressed concerns regarding the implementation of government regulations that may hurt current and future job prospects. Officials in Wisconsin claim the new Boiler MACT regulations, for example, will have a negative economic impact on pulp and paper industry jobs in the state.
4. North Carolina
- MFG share of output: 19.4%
- MFG output 2012: $88.25 billion (4th highest)
- 2012 Unemployment rate: 9.5%
Last year, North Carolina was the fourth-largest manufacturing economy in the country, losing the third-place position to Illinois. In 2011, of the state’s $84 billion manufacturing output, nearly $24 billion alone came from chemical manufacturing.Roughly 5.5% of the state’s GDP arose from chemical manufacturing alone. Another close to $20 billion came from the food, beverage, and tobacco product industry, more than any state but California. North Carolina’s tobacco economy is one of the second-largest in the country, and R.J. Reynolds, the second-largest tobacco company by sales in the U.S., is based in the state.
- MFG share of output: 22.6%
- MFG output 2012: $55.10 billion (11th highest)
- 2012 Unemployment rate: 6.4%
None of the nation’s manufacturing leaders produced less output from durable goods manufacturing than Louisiana, at $7.7 billion. Similarly, in 2011, the state produced just $7.1 billion in manufactured durable goods. Louisiana was among the nation’s largest manufacturers of chemicals, as well as petroleum and coal products, that year, helping the state’s totals. As of 2011, more than 10% of the state’s GDP came from petroleum and coal manufacturing, by far the highest percentage in the nation. The state remains one of the nation’s leading oil refiners. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, “the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) is the only port in the U.S. capable of offloading deep draft tankers.”
- MFG share of output: 27.8%
- MFG output 2012: $55.16 billion (10th highest)
- 2012 Unemployment rate: 8.7%
Oregon manufactured nearly $38 billion worth of computer and electronic products in 2011, up from the year before, and second in the nation. That output is behind California, but its percentage of total GDP was 20%, surpassing by far second place Idaho, where computer and electronic manufacturing accounts for only about 5.8% of total output as of 2011. Recent outside investments in the state reinforce the tech-heavy industries in Oregon. In the first half of this year, for example, AT&T invested nearly $80 million in its Oregon network to improve performance for Oregon residents, according to the Portland Business Journal.
- MFG share of output: 28.2%
- MFG output 2012: $84.15 billion (6th highest)
- 2012 Unemployment rate: 8.4%
Indiana has added manufacturing jobs at one of the fastest rates in the nation over the past several years, with year-over-year growth in manufacturing at or above 3.7% at the end of each of the past three years. Some of this growth came from companies like Honda expanding their factories and adding thousands of jobs, which made headlines in 2011. Developments like these are critical for the economy of the state, which depends on manufacturing more than anywhere else in the nation. In 2012, Indiana had just the nation’s 16th largest economy, while its output from manufacturing exceeded all but a handful of states. In 2010 and 2011, Indiana was one of the leading states in total output from both motor vehicle-related and chemicals manufacturing. Manufacturing of chemical products accounted for 7% of the state’s GDP in 2011, at least partly due to the presence of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, which has vendors throughout the state.
24/7 Wall St.com is a financial news and commentary website. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.
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