“The industries benefiting are more capital intensive than labor intensive,” said Tom Waltermire, the chief executive of Team NEO, the economic development agency for northeast Ohio.“Even a manufacturing renaissance won’t require the same headcount per unit of output as we had 20 or 30 years ago. If it did require that, the renaissance would never happen.”In March, a study by Cleveland State University concluded that while gas exploration had unleashed a surge in economic activity in Ohio, job growth – even in counties directly affected by the drilling – was stagnant. The employment growth that many assumed would follow the energy investment was “not yet evident,” the study’s authors said.
This is an important point that should accompany any discussion of the resurgence of American manufacturing. Manufacturing may well be returning to America from China, but it will not produce the kind and quantity of jobs that we knew in the heyday of the blue model. There’s no going back to the days when a unionized industrial workforce was the backbone of the middle class. Instead, we have to build a new middle class for a post-industrial economy, and manufacturing will not play a key role.[Assembly line worker image courtesy of Shutterstock]