Statistics mask weakness in U.S. manufacturing: numbers skewed by a single sector

Is manufacturing in the United States healthy or on the decline? That’s the question raised in a recent BloombergView posting by Noah Smith titled “Staying Rich Without Manufacturing Will Be Hard.” In it, Smith discusses a paper written by the Upjohn Institute’s Susan Houseman and Timothy Bartik (along with Timothy Sturgeon of MIT) in which the trio document how weaknesses in the manufacturing sector are masked by growth in a single industry: computers and electronic products. “For most of manufacturing, real output growth has been relatively weak or negative,” say Houseman, Bartik, and Sturgeon. “When the computer and electronic products industry is excluded, real GDP growth in manufacturing falls by two-thirds between 1997 and 2007, the decade leading up to the Great Recession.”

Learn more by reading “Measuring Manufacturing: How the Computer and Semiconductor Industries Affect the Numbers and Perceptions” by Susan N. Houseman, Timothy J. Bartik, and Timothy Sturgeon.