The ‘80s futurist John Naisbitt once called manufacturing a “a declining sport,” and to be sure the share of Americans working in factories has fallen far from the 1950 peak of 30% to roughly 8.5% last year.
Yet, manufacturing’s contributions to the economy are far out of proportion to its shrinking share of employment. In 2013, the manufacturing sector employed 12 million workers, but generated an additional 17.1 million indirect jobs. It has the largest multiplier of any economic sector: each dollar’s worth of manufactured goods generates $1.40 in output from other sectors of the economy. Perhaps most important may be the higher wages it provides for blue-collar workers. According to the latest BLS data, goods-producing industries pays $56,799 a year on average during the latest period in our rankings—much higher than other working-class fields like health care and education (averaging $45,676 annually) and leisure and hospitality ($20,879).