Manufacturing: Both down and up

Everyone loves to talk about the decline of American manufacturing. Here is manufacturing employment as a percent of the workforce:

It increased through WWII, then held steady for about ten years, then has been decreasing linearly since then (from which we can confidently predict that we will have no one working in the sector in 25 years). Let’s look at total manufacturing employment, though:

Here we see the total number of jobs increasing until about 1970-1980, then plateauing until the 2000’s when it dropped precipitously. I think this tells a very different story than the previous graph. When we examine manufacturing employment and total output we see that output has been increasing consistently:

Which obviously brings us to the productivity gains:

I don’t have any particular commentary on this, I just think it’s good to keep all the facts in mind. Note, though, that productivity increases do not really lead to job loss, but they might lead to decreased share of employment (see also: agriculture). The comments in the links are occasionally insightful, so go ahead and browse through them.