Do manufacturers ever get to rest? (No.)

August 23, 2010
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One of the great human achievements of the past couple of centuries has been our ongoing ability to do more with less. We now make things for a fraction of the cost, and there’s no sign of the trend letting up.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago has posted a nice summary of these gains following World War II. Consider these observations by Senior Economist William Strauss and marvel:

—Manufacturing productivity growth has averaged 2.9 percent since 1950, meaning only 184 workers accomplish the same amount of work as 1,000 workers in the year when Harry Truman approved production of the hydrogen bomb.

—Technology caused productivity to explode. Computer numerical control drove manufacturing productivity growth at a 3.3-percent annual pace between 1980 and 2009, a period in which productivity in the rest of the economy grew only 2 percent a year.

—Great productivity gains in manufacturing have kept a ceiling on prices. Prices for new vehicles rose 1.7 percent from 1980 to 2009 while the overall Consumer Price Index moved up 3.7 percent.

While it might be hard to imagine manufacturers continuing to wrest even more from less, Strauss sees no end to the improvement.

“The manufacturing sector remains vibrant and innovative. Manufacturing output has been rising at a solid pace over time,” he said.

As Strauss notes, some of these gains have come with wrenching pain for workers whose labor is no longer needed. Others have complained that U.S. trade policy effectively outsourced manufacturing to Asia, which drove down prices through cheap labor, in order to encourage economic stability in the region.

What are your thoughts?

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  1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

  2. I agree, having seen three shows, that I was less than wowed. Disappointing!!

  3. Start drilling, start fracking, and start using our own energy. Other states have enriched their citizens and nearly elminated unemployment by using these resources that are on private land. If you are against the 'low prices' of discount stores, the best way to allow shoppers more choice is to empower them with better earnings. NOT through manipulated gov mandated min wage hikes, but better jobs and higher competitive pay. This would be direct result of using our own energy resources, yet Obama knows that Americans who arent dependent of gov welfare are much less likely to vote Dem, so he looks for ways to ensure America's decline and keep its citizens dependent of gov.

  4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

  5. Ballard Administration. Too funny. This is the least fiscally responsive administration I have ever seen. One thing this article failed to mention, is that the Hoosier State line delivers rail cars to the Amtrak Beech Grove maintenance facility for refurbishment. That's an economic development issue. And the jobs there are high-paying. That alone is worth the City's investment.

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