The U.S. manufacturing sector is a shadow of its former self. Cheap foreign labor and increased automation — in addition to several recessions — have chipped away at demand for American manufacturing workers for decades. Ultimately, the total number of Americans employed in the sector bottomed out at 11.5 million in February 2010, a 41% decline from the peak of 19.6 million in 1979.
The industry’s downturn gutted the economic core of more than a dozen once-great American cities. These cities, concentrated in the mid-Atlantic and Midwest, are sometimes collectively referred to, pejoratively, as the Rust Belt.
Rust Belt cities, themselves symbols of American industrial decline, include Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, and Pittsburgh.
Though the manufacturing sector has added over a million jobs since the employment trough immediately following the Great Recession, the industry’s growth is not keeping pace with overall national employment growth.
Encouragingly, several U.S. cities are bucking this trend. In certain pockets of the country, manufacturing jobs are surging, often more than tripling the sector’s employment growth nationwide.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed the percent change in manufacturing employment over the last five years in U.S. metro areas to identify the cities where manufacturing is making a comeback. To limit the list to manufacturing hubs, only cities with greater than typical employment concentration in the sector half a decade ago were considered.
In addition to the iconic steel and automaking jobs once common in many Rust Belt cities, the manufacturing sector includes a range of other industries, from food to medicine production. Many of today’s new manufacturing jobs bear little resemblance to those of the previous century.