For at least the past 30 years, the story of American manufacturing has been one of decline.
The phrase “Made in China” came to epitomize the slow death of the manufacturing sector as jobs moved overseas where labor was cheaper, and foreign imports flooded consumers’ shelves. In fact foreign goods made up 60 percent of consumer purchases in 2011, compared to only 8 percent in 1960.
In the past few years, however, American manufacturing has been making a comeback.
Between the years 2010 to 2014, 762,000 new U.S. manufacturing jobs were created over that short period, and the trend is likely to continue.
- First, Chinese wages have been rising, making the original rationale for moving production to China – cheap labor – less appealing. While the average American worker made 22 times the average Chinese wage in 2000, that gap has since shrunk substantially. Americans’ wages are now just four times that of the average Chinese.
- Second, gains in automation have led to higher productivity, allowing Americans to produce the same product more quickly and efficiently.
- A third factor causing falling production in China and Asia is the rise in energy prices overseas – coupled with falling energy prices here at home. One report by the Boston Consulting Group, for example, found that the cost of industrial electricity in China has risen by 66 percent since 2004. In 2013, Chinese power companies such as State Grid and Shanghai Grid announced average energy price increases of 10 percent.
This infographic from Pepperdine University’s Online MBA Program helps to illustrate the forces encouraging manufacturing to move back to America.
The job market for manufacturing is definitely on the rise, which is great timing for millennials now entering the workforce. And these won’t just be jobs on the production floor. Careers in manufacturing include many paths, including warehouse work and logistics, skilled technical jobs to manage complex automation machinery, and executive staff.
While many millennials may not have thought about a job in manufacturing, it’s potentially a great opportunity for millennials to take part in the comeback of “Made in America.”
Liam Barrett is a millennial entrepreneur in Boise, Idaho. He focuses his life around business leadership, real estate, and online marketing. Follow: @TheBestBarrett