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Manufacturing Jobs Still Dominate American Employment

Economic peril still lurks. And yet, manufacturing expanded again last month, at its fastest rate since before the recession in key industries. Fifteen of 18 reported improvement, including mining, steel, and other metal production, oil and gas, autos, and furniture.

While other outlets have pointed out the resurgence of manufacturing nationwide, the inaugural issue of Pacific Standard—out in two weeks—highlights just how crucial a role the sector continues to play on the West Coast. Not in the issue but relevant: according to Bureau of Economic Analysis data, in terms of compensation of employees (the BEA’s term for the total amount of salary, wages, and benefits paid out to employees each year), manufacturing has been neck-and-neck with health care since 2009—and that was the first year in American history that any industry paid out more than manufacturing.

It’s true that health care and retail each now employ more people, and financial services contribute far more to the U.S. GDP. But,  so-called “maker” jobs still put a lot more money in pockets than all other fields except health care. The numbers this month (as well as the renewed interest from corners of academia, Wall Street, and the White House) reinforce the sense that manufacturing means more to our future than it has in recent years, and maybe never didn’t matter.