Conventional wisdom holds the manufacturing industry in low esteem. The popular perception—as amplified by the media and casual observations at big-box stores—is that almost nothing gets made in the United States, and it doesn't help that the Great Recession accounted for millions of manufacturing job losses.
Yet the facts support a different view. Industrial output continues to grow, manufactured products are globally competitive, and the rebound from the recession surprised on the upside.
In 2011, manufacturers generated $1.8 trillion worth of value-added. Some sectors, such as electronics, computers, and related hardware, expanded at a very fast clip. Others lost ground to changing tastes and technology (think typewriters and payphones). In the 20 years ending in 2011, manufacturing output increased more than 55 percent.
The U.S. manufacturing sector is so huge that if it were its own country, it would rank as the tenth-largest world economy. The United States produces the most goods and services overall as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), and is far ahead of second-place China. Other countries, such as Japan and Germany, showed less growth buoyancy over the past decade compared with the United States. On the other hand, emerging economies such as Brazil, India, and Mexico grew very quickly and are catching up with the developed world. Still, American manufacturers account for a larger volume of production than the entire GDP of India, Canada, or Korea.