Manufacturing trends by state through the years

Manufacturing jobs have particular significance because they pay better than jobs in other sectors to equivalent groups of workers.

Colin Gordon
Colin Gordon

In September, prompted by President Clinton’s discussion of the overall U.S. “jobs score” under Republican and Democratic presidents since 1961, Stephen Herzenberg of the Keystone Research Center and I analyzed trends since 1949 in manufacturing employment by presidential administration.[1]

Manufacturing jobs have particular significance because they pay better (even today) than jobs in other sectors to equivalent groups of workers, and because they leverage more related employment (up and down the supply chain) and more export growth than any other sector. In addition, manufacturing workers and many manufacturing-intensive regions (e.g., in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin) have political significance: Their swings back and forth between the two parties often decide the outcome of presidential elections.

Since the release of our national manufacturing jobs score analysis, we learned that the Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains data that make it possible to examine trends in manufacturing employment by state since 1939.[2] We have produced a briefing paper on these issues, beginning with an exploration of manufacturing employment trends since 1948 nationally, in four multistate regions, and in individual states.

In the subsequent section of the paper, we detail the findings for a single state, Pennsylvania, but we also provide charts online for all states, inviting similar analysis of states besides Pennsylvania.) The last part of the paper considers what our numbers mean, drawing on our published work on the national manufacturing jobs trends.

The Keystone Report details our findings — and their implications — for Pennsylvania. But we also provide an interactive map and chart that allow investigation of the numbers for any state or region. The chart below examines Iowa manufacturing job trends from 1948 to present.

graph of manufacturing job trends in IowaPosted by Colin Gordon, Senior Research Consultant