The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Opinion & Letters to the Editor

December 5, 2012

What happened to manufacturing jobs?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012 — Now that the election is over, let’s look at one aspect of our economy that generated some discussion in the campaigns — manufacturing jobs. For years we have all heard “we don’t make anything anymore.” We go to many stores and find most goods were manufactured in other countries. It appears if we would make all our products in this country we would have our manufacturing jobs back. Wrong. This is a different world from years ago and we consumers have changed it.

We have many more people and much higher prices than we had years ago, but comparing how we spend our incomes now with what we did in the 1950s gives us a perspective we haven’t seen discussed during the past election cycle.

According to Department of Commerce data a lot has changed. In the decade of the 1950s, the decade I graduated from high school and college, went to work full time and got married, we Americans spent 36 percent of our Gross Domestic Product on consumer goods, most of which were made in American factories. Americans had the most goods ever, but it was a time when we began to want more services.

Services are what we consume and enjoy but can’t hold. Vacations, health care, nursing homes, TV connections, cell phone and computer connections are just a few of the many services we enjoy. Now, compared with previous decades, we are less interested in products we can hold and more interested in being provided with services.  

The Department of Commerce reports in the 1950s services amounted to 27 percent of our Gross Domestic Product while in the last three years services have taken 47 percent of our GDP. During the same period our consumer expenditures for goods have gone from 36 percent to 24 percent. We simply don’t spend as much of our income on “things” as we used to do.  

If we use a smaller portion of our income to buy things, we don’t need as many people to make things hence we need fewer manufacturing jobs.

Now I know we still buy a lot from other countries, but a point I want to make is that manufacturing jobs started to decrease in this country before we started buying so many products from other countries.

One other jobs fact. In the 1950s almost 10 percent of Americans worked on farms. Now it is closer to 1 percent and we are not importing more food. Productivity has increased significantly so we don’t need as many to work producing food and fiber. Having fewer people in the agricultural sector means more people are available to produce the services we want.

In summary, we have lost many jobs in manufacturing due to a change in consumer desires from products to services. Increased productivity in both manufacturing and agriculture has eliminated jobs. Increased consumption of services increases the jobs in food and lodging, in technical skills, in health care and other services.

We have a dynamic and changing economy. The changes weren’t caused by elected officials. The changes were caused by how we spend our money.

It will never again be like it was, no matter who wins an election.

 

1
Text Only
Opinion & Letters to the Editor
  • Do White Castle prices tell us anything about the minimum wage?

    NEW YORK - Economists love hamburgers. Specifically fast-food burgers. This is partly because all right-thinking human beings love ground meat on a bun, but it's also because the sandwich makes a handy yardstick for international financial comparisons. The ingredients and labor involved in preparing a Big Mac are pretty much the same no matter where you are in the world, so by looking at how many hours of toiling it takes a worker to earn enough to purchase one, you can get a sense of how wages really stack up across countries. The Economist famously created the Big Mac index in 1986 to see which currencies were overvalued. It started as a joke. Now, as the magazine proudly notes, it's a subject of academic study.

    April 22, 2014

  • Can Hillary Clinton rock the cradle and the world?

    WASHINGTON - What's most interesting to contemplate is the effect becoming a grandmother will have on Hillary's ambition. It's one of life's unfairnesses that a woman's peak career years often coincide with her peak childbearing years.

    April 22, 2014

  • Doug Creamer All in the Family

    We had a family get-together at my brother’s house on Easter Sunday. It’s hard to get our family together because we are spread out, especially when you consider nieces and nephews. My parents and siblings all made the gathering this year. Some of my nieces and nephews are far away, but they all remember gathering at my brother’s house for the holidays. Easter is known for the Jell-O eggs and the famous Easter egg hunt.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Victimized by the 'marriage penalty'

    In a few short months, I'll pass the milestone that every little girl dreams of: the day she swears - before family and God, in sickness and in health, all in the name of love - that she's willing to pay a much higher tax rate.

    April 19, 2014

  • The case for separate beds

    WASHINGTON - The other night I slept on a twin bed in the guest room of the house I share with my husband and our two kids.
    It was the best night's sleep I've had in years.

    April 19, 2014

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Obama's equal pay exaggeration leads us all into danger

    The president's claims of national shame over gender-based pay inequity spring from distorted calculations, as well as some convenient political math.

    April 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • Teens trading naked selfies for mugshots

    Will teenagers ever learn? You think yours will. Maybe so. But it's likely that was also the hope of the parents of children who were so shamed by nude photos of themselves that went south - how else can they go - that they killed themselves.

    April 12, 2014

  • Brent Laurenz If you want to vote in primary, you need to register to vote now

    RALEIGH – North Carolina voters will head to the polls on May 6 this year to cast ballots in important primary elections across the state.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Scott Mooneyham Heeding the voter fraud call in N.C.

    RALEIGH – Legislators found the findings outrageous.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Doug Creamer Roots

    I took a few minutes over the weekend to enjoy our yard and the arrival of spring. There seems to be so much work that needs to be done, it is hard to decide what to do first. I am excited that I got to run my tiller through the garden. I didn’t go very deep, but I did at least break up the soil. I have a couple of raised beds and the soil in them was in very good shape. I didn’t plant my peas and now after the big rain we got on Monday I realize that I missed a window of opportunity.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

House Ads
Seasonal Content