We hear that line all the time. And at first glance it seems to be true. Manufacturing employment represents a shrinking share of total employment and even the absolute number of manufacturing workers has fallen dramatically from its 1980 peak. And yet all this can be misleading, argues Russell Roberts:
We still make stuff. A lot of stuff. A lot more stuff than we did 20 years ago. We’re just doing it with fewer people. How? Productivity. We’ve found ways to make workers more productive so even though fewer people are doing the manufacturing, they’re producing more. Technology and innovation, spurred by the carrot of profits and the stick of losses has allowed that transformation. It makes us richer. It frees up a very scarce resource, people, to go do other things creating new products and services.
More, including some telling BLS charts, here.