While Donald Trump’s perceived success at keeping air conditioner maker Carrier from moving to Mexico is being hailed by many – including Trump himself – as a sign that manufacturing jobs will, indeed, be on the upswing here in the United States, there are sound reasons to believe that such is not the case.
Although many U.S. citizens, understandably, cheer the news whenever it is revealed that jobs will be staying within the nation’s borders, the landscape of manufacturing, in terms of how things are produced at a nuts-and-bolts level (pun fully intended), has changed in a way that basically ensures worker numbers will not be what they once were.
An important illustration to that effect is that while employment within U.S. manufacturing has dropped significantly over the years…by about a third…output has doubled.
But how can that be?
The reason is automation, along with other, related improvements in production efficiency.
As Drew Greenblatt, owner of wire basket maker Marlin Steel puts it, “When those jobs come back, they're going to be different jobs, and there will be less of them because we're so much more productive that we used to be.
“You're going to have an American worker making 80 grand a year — one guy running a robot — rather than 10 Chinese workers in a room doing it by hand. We're not going to get the 10 jobs coming back from China.”
Any improvement in domestic manufacturing jobs is still seen as a good thing, to be sure. However, the reality is that technological progress, in the form of production automation, will likely prove to be the chief culprit in keeping the number of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. from ever again realizing the peak levels enjoyed nearly 40 years ago, when they numbered nearly 20 million.
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