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Top 18 Facts You Need to Know About U.S. Manufacturing

Top 18 Facts You Need to Know About U.S. Manufacturing

A strong economy depends on manufacturing growth, from the simplest industrial processes to the most advanced technologies.


1. Manufacturers contributed $2.38 trillion to the U.S. economy.

In the most recent data, manufacturers contributed $2.38 trillion to the U.S. economy in the fourth quarter of 2018. This figure has risen since the second quarter of 2009, when manufacturers contributed $1.67 trillion. Over that same time frame, value-added output from durable goods manufacturing grew from $0.87 trillion to $1.33 trillion, with nondurable goods output up from $0.81 trillion to $1.06 trillion. In 2018, manufacturing accounted for 11.4 percent of GDP in the economy. (Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis)

2. For every $1.00 spent in manufacturing, another $1.82 is added.

For every $1.00 spent in manufacturing, another $1.82 is added to the economy. That is the highest multiplier effect of any economic sector. In addition, for every one worker in manufacturing, there are another four employees hired elsewhere. (Source: NAM calculations using IMPLAN)

With that said, recent research suggests that manufacturing’s impacts on the economy are even larger than that if we consider the entire manufacturing value chain plus manufacturing for other industries’ supply chains. That approach estimates that manufacturing could account for one-third of GDP and employment. Along those lines, it also estimated the total multiplier effect for manufacturing to be $3.60 for every $1.00 of value-added output, with one manufacturing employee generating another 3.4 workers elsewhere. (Source: Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation)

3. The majority of manufacturing firms in the United States are quite small.

The majority of manufacturing firms in the United States are quite small. In 2016, there were 249,962 firms in the manufacturing sector, with all but 3,837 firms considered to be small (i.e., having fewer than 500 employees). In fact, three-quarters of these firms have fewer than 20 employees. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Statistics of U.S. Businesses)

4. There are 12.82 million manufacturing workers in the United States.

There are 12.82 million manufacturing workers in the United States, accounting for 8.5 percent of the workforce. Since the end of the Great Recession, manufacturers have hired an additional 1.37 million workers. There are 8.05 million and 4.77 million workers in durable and nondurable goods manufacturing, respectively. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

5. Manufacturing workers in the United States earned $84,832 annually.

In 2017, the average manufacturing worker in the United States earned $84,832 annually, including pay and benefits. The average worker in all non-farm industries earned $66,847. Looking specifically at wages, the average manufacturing worker earned more than $27 per hour, according to the latest figures, not including benefits. (Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis and Bureau of Labor Statistics)

6. 92 percent of manufacturing employees were eligible for health insurance.

Manufacturers have one of the highest percentages of workers who are eligible for health benefits provided by their employer. Indeed, 92 percent of manufacturing employees were eligible for health insurance benefits in 2018, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. This is significantly higher than the 79 percent average for all firms. Of those who are eligible, 82 percent participate in their employer’s plans (i.e., the take-up rate). There are only three other sectors—state and local government (85 percent), trade, communications and utilities (85 percent) and wholesale (84 percent)—that have higher take-up rates. (Source: Kaiser Family Foundation)

7. Manufacturers have experienced tremendous growth.

Manufacturers have experienced tremendous growth over the past few decades, making them more “lean” and helping them become more competitive globally. Output per hour for all workers in the manufacturing sector has increased by more than 2.25 times since 1987. In contrast, productivity is roughly 1.8 times greater for all non-farm businesses. Note that durable goods manufacturers have seen even greater growth, exceeding 2.6 percent times the output per worker seen three decades ago. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

8. Over the next decade, 4.6 million manufacturing jobs will likely be needed.

Over the next decade, 4.6 million manufacturing jobs will likely be needed, and 2.4 million are expected to go unfilled due to the skills gap. Moreover, according to a recent report, the lack of qualified talent could take a significant bite out of economic growth, potentially costing as much as $454 billion from manufacturing GDP in 2028 alone. Between now and 2028, a persistent skills shortage could cost $2.5 trillion in reduced output. (Source: Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute)

9. Over the past 28 years, U.S.-manufactured goods exports have quadrupled.

Over the past 28 years, U.S.-manufactured goods exports have quadrupled. In 1990, for example, U.S. manufacturers exported $329.5 billion in goods. By 2000, that number had more than doubled to $708.0 billion. In 2018, it was just shy of the all-time high reached in 2014, which was $1.403 trillion. Despite a stronger dollar, slowing global growth and lingering trade uncertainties, U.S.-manufactured goods exports were up 4.7 percent and 5.6 percent in 2017 and 2018, respectively. (Source: U.S. Commerce Department)

10. Manufactured goods exports have grown substantially.

Manufactured goods exports have grown substantially to our largest trading partners since 1990, including to Canada, Mexico and even China. The North American market remains vital for manufacturers in the United States. Indeed, Canada and Mexico purchase more manufactured goods from the U.S. ($500.3 billion in 2018) than from our next 11 largest trading partners combined ($496.5 billion in 2018). Meanwhile, U.S.-manufactured goods exports to China have tripled from $31.9 billion in 2005 to $98.2 billion in 2018. (Source: U.S. Commerce Department)

11. Manufacturers export nearly half of U.S. manufacturing output.

Manufacturers in the United States export nearly half of U.S. manufacturing output. Of total U.S.-manufactured goods exports, nearly half were sold to nations with which the U.S. has free trade agreements. In 2018, manufacturers in the U.S. exported $679.5 billion in goods to FTA countries, or 48.6 percent of the total. (Source: U.S. Commerce Department)

12. World trade in manufactured goods has more than doubled.

World trade in manufactured goods has more than doubled between 2000 and 2017—from $4.8 trillion to $12.2 trillion. The U.S. share of world trade in manufactured goods has grown from 7.6 percent in 2002 to 8.7 percent in 2017. (Source: World Trade Organization)

13. Manufacturing in the US would be the eighth-largest economy in the world.

Taken alone, manufacturing in the United States would be the eighth-largest economy in the world. With $2.18 trillion in value added from manufacturing in 2017, only seven other nations (including the U.S.) would rank higher in terms of their GDP. Those other nations with higher GDP in 2017 were (in order) the U.S., China, Japan, Germany, India, the United Kingdom and France. (Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis, International Monetary Fund)

14. Foreign direct investment in U.S. manufacturing exceeded $1.6 trillion.

Foreign direct investment in U.S. manufacturing exceeded $1.6 trillion for the first time ever in 2017. Across the past decade, foreign direct investment has jumped from $569.3 billion in 2006 to $1,607.2 billion in 2017. Moreover, that figure is likely to continue growing, especially when we consider the number of announced ventures that have yet to come online. (Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis)

15. Affiliates of foreign multinational enterprises employed nearly 2.5 million.

U.S. affiliates of foreign multinational enterprises employed nearly 2.5 million manufacturing workers in the United States in 2016, or roughly one-fifth of total employment in the sector. In 2016, the most recent year with data, manufacturing sectors with the largest employment from foreign multinationals included motor vehicles and parts (407,300), chemicals (364,400), food (301,000), machinery (228,100), primary and fabricated metal products (168,000), plastics and rubber products (156,900) and computer and electronic products (152,900). Total compensation in the manufacturing sectors from these affiliates was $228.2 billion, and those entities spent $43.0 billion in research and development. (Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis)

16. Manufacturers perform 64 percent of all private-sector R&D.

Manufacturers in the United States perform 64 percent of all private-sector R&D in the nation, driving more innovation than any other sector. R&D in the manufacturing sector has risen from $132.5 billion in 2000 to $252.0 billion in 2017. In the most recent data, pharmaceuticals accounted for nearly one-third of all manufacturing R&D, spending $72.6 billion in 2017. Aerospace, chemicals, computers, electronics and motor vehicles and parts were also significant contributors to R&D spending in that year. (Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis)

17. Manufacturers consume more than 30 percent of the nation’s energy.

Manufacturers consume more than 30 percent of the nation’s energy consumption. Industrial users consumed 32.3 quadrillion Btu of energy in 2018, or 32.3 percent of the total. (Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2019)

18. The cost of federal regulations falls on manufacturers.

The cost of federal regulations falls disproportionately on manufacturers, particularly those that are smaller. Manufacturers pay $19,564 per employee on average to comply with federal regulations, or nearly double the $9,991 per employee costs borne by all firms as a whole. In addition, small manufacturers with fewer than 50 employees spend 2.5 times the amount of large manufacturers. Environmental regulations account for 90 percent of the difference in compliance costs between manufacturers and the average firm.

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National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) By National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is the voice for all manufacturing in the United States. The NAM is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs more than 12.8 million men and women, contributes $2.38 trillion to the U.S. economy annually, has the largest economic multiplier of any major sector and accounts for 64 percent of all private-sector research and development in the nation.

manufacturing, manufacturer, ROI, Growth

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