Made In The USA

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from TIME Magazine,

Manufacturing is back … but where are the jobs?

The U.S. economy continues to struggle, and the weak March jobs report–just 88,000 positions were added–spooked the market. But step back and you’ll see a bright spot, perhaps the best economic news the U.S. has witnessed since the rise of Silicon Valley: made in the usa is making a comeback. Climbing out of the recession, the U.S. has seen its manufacturing growth outpace that of other advanced nations, with some 500,000 jobs created in the past three years. It marks the first time in more than a decade that the number of factory jobs has gone up instead of down.

This isn’t a blip. It’s the sum of a powerful equation refiguring the global economy. U.S. factories increasingly have access to cheap energy, thanks to oil and gas from the shale boom. For companies outside the U.S., it’s the opposite. Suddenly the math on outsourcing doesn’t look quite as attractive.

Today’s U.S. factories aren’t the noisy places where your grandfather knocked in four bolts a minute for eight hours a day. Dungarees and lunch pails are out; computer skills and specialized training are in, since the new made-in-America economics is centered largely on cutting-edge technologies. These factories of the future have more machines and fewer workers–and those workers must be able to master the machines. Many new manufacturing jobs require at least a two-year tech degree to complement artisan skills such as welding and milling. The bar will only get higher.

Manufacturing is coming back, but it’s evolving into a very different type of animal than the one most people recognize today,” says James Manyika, a director at McKinsey Global Institute who specializes in global high tech. “We’re going to see new jobs, but nowhere near the number some people expect, especially in the short term.

We are probably the most competitive, on a global basis, that we’ve been in the past 30 years,” says GE CEO Jeff Immelt, who led Obama’s jobs council. “Will U.S. manufacturing go from 9% to 30% of all jobs? That’s unlikely. But could you see a steady increase in jobs over the next quarters and years? I think that will happen.” Indeed, it may be our best hope for real, shared economic recovery in the USA.

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