DC Reports the Smallest Share of Employment in Manufacturing


Since its peak in 1979, manufacturing employment in the U.S. has been on the decline, accelerating sharply around the turn of the century. Despite modest gains since 2010, the number of manufacturing jobs remains far below previous levels. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), manufacturing accounted for more than 13 percent of the U.S. nonfarm workforce in 1999, or 17.3 million jobs. As of 2019, just 8.5 percent of workers were employed in the manufacturing sector, totaling less than 13 million jobs.

Interestingly, at the same time that manufacturing jobs have moved overseas, manufacturing output—measured as the value of goods and services produced in the U.S.—has increased steadily. In fact, the BLS’s index of labor productivity for manufacturing is 2.5 times greater than it was in 1987 (the earliest year for which the data is available) due to advances in machinery, increased worker skill, and improved industrial processes.

Although manufacturing output has grown overall, the growth has not been equal among manufacturing subsectors. Between 1999 and 2019, overall durable goods manufacturing output increased by 36.4 percent. While a number of durable goods manufacturing sectors decreased in output, computer and electronic products production more than tripled. In contrast, overall nondurable manufacturing output fell by 3.6 percent over the last 20 years, with the steepest declines observed in apparel and textiles.

The share of employment in manufacturing varies significantly across cities and states—some parts of the country depend much more on manufacturing work than others. The change in manufacturing jobs over the last two decades also differs substantially on a geographic basis. Even states with the largest share of employment in manufacturing today have lost large numbers of manufacturing jobs. While Indiana and Wisconsin have 17.1 and 16.2 percent of their employment in manufacturing, respectively, they have each lost more than 100,000 manufacturing jobs since 1999.

To find the metropolitan areas with the most manufacturing jobs, researchers at Smartest Dollar used employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The researchers ranked metro areas according to the share of workers employed in manufacturing. Researchers also looked at the percentage change in total manufacturing jobs since 1999 and the total number of manufacturing jobs in 2019 and 1999.

To improve relevance, only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 people were included in the analysis. Additionally, metro areas were grouped into the following cohorts based on population size: small metros have 100,000–349,999 residents; midsize metros have 350,000–999,999 residents; and large metros have 1,000,000 or more residents.

The analysis found that 1.7% of all jobs in DC are in the manufacturing sector. Out of all large U.S. metros, DC reports the smallest share of employment in manufacturing. Here is a summary of the data for the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV metro:

  • Share of employment in manufacturing: 1.7%
  • Change in total manufacturing jobs since 1999: -30.1% (24,500 total jobs lost)
  • Total manufacturing jobs 2019: 57,000
  • Total manufacturing jobs 1999: 81,500

For reference, here are the statistics for the entire United States:

  • Share of employment in manufacturing: 8.5%
  • Change in total manufacturing jobs since 1999: -25.9% (4,482,000 total jobs lost)
  • Total manufacturing jobs 2019: 12,840,000
  • Total manufacturing jobs 1999: 17,322,000

For or more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on Smartest Dollar’s website: https://smartestdollar.com/research/cities-with-the-most-manufacturing-jobs-2020

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