Health of U.S. Manufacturing

The February 28, 2011 issue of Plastics News explained that the U.S. continues to lead the world in manufacturing output. It is ahead of Germany and Japan, and exceeds China by 40%, which I found surprising. The source of this information is economic futurist Jeff Thredgold. He said that the output per U.S. worker is three times what it was in 1980.

The report from Thredgold and Plastics News is at odds with a March 15, 2011 article published in, a site that provides news and commentary from Asia. It said that after more than 100 years of dominance, the U.S. was surpassed by China last year as the world’s top manufacturer. The article cited IHS Global Insight as the source of this information. It went on to say that China secured 19.8% of total manufacturing in 2010, compared to the U.S.’s 19.4%. Japan and Germany were a distant third and fourth.

Meanwhile, the February 1, 2011 issue of the Daily Executive Briefingpublished by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers stated that the U.S. is by far the number one country in manufacturing, out producing China by more than 40%—consistent with Thredgold’s estimate. The May 5, 2011 issue of the same publication then reported that the U.S. will retake the lead in manufacturing by 2015, according to the Boston Consulting Group. So who or what does one believe?

In fairness to those producing and reporting this information, each source has its methods of conducting market research. Digging into the exact methodologies might explain the discrepancies, but market researchers usually do not disclose their methods for competitive reasons. My conclusion is that the health of U.S. manufacturing is very good, whether it’s in first or second place. From what I see and hear, companies that survived the Great Recession are now thriving and some are doing exceptionally well. Let’s hope it continues.

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