Manufacturing Jobs Are Never Coming Back to America

Ben Casselman for FiveThirtyEight:


"Here’s the problem: Whether or not those manufacturing jobs could have been saved, they aren’t coming back, at least not most of them. How do we know? Because in recent years, factories have been coming back, but the jobs haven’t. Because of rising wages in China, the need for shorter supply chains and other factors, a small but growing group of companies are shifting production back to the U.S. But the factories they build here are heavily automated, employing a small fraction of the workers they would have a generation ago."


Along with stark advancements in automation, it’s simply a fact of life that a tertiary-sector-led country would eventually faze out the secondary sector jobs it once had. Tertiary sector jobs are generally more convenient and less strenuous and mundane than secondary sector jobs. Unless you’re China, a country with perhaps one of the world’s most severe pay gap problems, it’s hard to come close to having plenty of jobs to fill in both sectors.

Then there’s the whole competency argument. There’s a reason why China has a near monopoly on manufacturing. Apple CEO Tim Cook said this about Chinese manufacturing prowess:

Think about it: Apple is one of the world’s most successful vertically-integrated businesses, famously so, yet to this day and for the foreseeable future, they’ll be relying on China to achieve the scale they want.

(Via FiveThirtyEightAbdel Ibrahim on Twitter)