Despite Outsourcing, Manufacturing Jobs Still High-Paid, Worth Saving

Manufacturing matters. “Big time.” Among other things, these jobs:

  • Make modern life possible
  • Protect our national security
  • Encourage and apply new technologies
  • Hold the key to reducing our trade deficit
  • Contribute to the growth of the service industries, public services, and professional technical sectors

High-Paying Jobs. Most important of all, manufacturing still provides the high-wage, family-supporting, community-sustaining jobs that built the middle class.

  • In fact, manufacturing workers earn 13 percent more in hourly pay than comparable workers elsewhere in the private sector.

Need to Expand & Improve Manufacturing Jobs. That’s why, as the Economic Policy Institute’s Larry Mishel concludes in his report: “We should not give up on U.S. manufacturing, which is still a source of better-paying jobs. But, because there is less of a pay advantage in manufacturing than there used to be, policies to expand manufacturing employment should be coupled with policies that make those jobs good jobs.”

Down but Not Out. Manufacturing workers’ wage advantage has fallen from 16.9 percent in the 1980s to 13.0 percent today. More from the report:

  • Up against competition from low-wage economies abroad and cut-throat companies at home, American manufacturers are paying lower wages and using low-paid temp workers from staffing agencies.
  • These temp agencies lowered the pay premium in manufacturing by 4 percent in the 2000s.
  • But, compared to other workers, manufacturing workers’ benefits—especially insurance and retirement—have improved.
  • Another hopeful sign: Union membership in manufacturing increased last year.