Good news and bad news on the manufacturing job front.
The Economic Policy Institute is out with new employment data on the industry and says that from 1998, jobs in manufacturing are down by 3.4 million. What's more, wages aren't faring much better.
"Employment in the sector cratered during the last recession and following jobless recovery and has failed to recover since," the EPI said. "Further, while manufacturing productivity has been particularly strong in recent years, real wages of blue-collar workers in this sector have declined steeply."
While it's not surprising to see employment slip as a percentage of all jobs - a result of the impressive productivity gains made in manufacturing - the level of overall manufacturing employment in August of this year (14.2 million) is near the lows seen in the 1950s.
"Though factory employment has clearly been hemorrhaging, we might expect the strong productivity growth in manufacturing to show up in the real wages of the factory workers still on the job," the EPI said. Instead, blue-collar workers have seen sharp wage losses since late-2003; over the past 12 months, the average real wage of these workers is down 2.7 percent. For all non-managers, real wages were flat over the last year, the group said.
The good news? If the U.S. ever gets serious about reducing its trade deficit - which now makes up about 6 percent of our gross domestic product - it's going to require a massive increase in domestic manufacturing production.
"The sooner this process begins, the less wrenching it will be, and the sooner manufacturing's job recovery can occur," the EPI said. "For now, the sector that will provide the engine to re-balancing the economy continues to sputter and stall."