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Daily Journal: Manufacturing jobs on the rise

John Hood writes for Carolina Journal‘s Daily Journal:

Did you know that manufacturing employment in North Carolina has gone up more than 10 percent since 2010? I didn’t either, until I took a recent dive into economic statistics.

In February 2010, there were about 431,000 jobs at manufacturing enterprises in North Carolina. By February 2019, that number had grown to about 476,000. What makes that notable is that during the preceding decade, from 2000 to 2010, manufacturing employment in the state had fallen by 44 percent.

North Carolina’s experience is hardly unique. Something like the same trend is evident for the nation as a whole: manufacturing employment fluctuates within an overall downward trend during the 1980s and 1990s, drops like a rock during the first decade of the 21st century, then recovers a bit since 2010.

Of course, manufacturers don’t exist to create jobs. They exist to make and sell products. It’s wonderful to see companies form or expand, hiring North Carolinians along the way. But the health of the sector is best measured by output, not employment.

By that measure, North Carolina manufacturers are doing well. Over the last 20 years of available data (through 2017), their output rose by about 28 percent in inflation-adjusted terms. That’s faster than for other goods-producing industries in our state but not nearly as fast as the now-dominant service sector.

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