Most Americans unaware that as U.S. manufacturing jobs have disappeared, output has grown

By Drew Desilver, for Pew Research Center

Jul 25, 2017

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Manufacturing jobs in the United States have declined considerably over the past several decades, even as manufacturing output – the value of goods and products manufactured in the U.S. – has grown strongly. But while most Americans are aware of the decline in employment, relatively few know about the increase in output, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

Four of every five Americans (81%) know that the total number of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. has decreased over the past three decades, according to the survey of 4,135 adults from Pew Research Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel. But just 35% know that the nation’s manufacturing output has risen over the same time span, versus 47% who say output has decreased and 17% who say it’s stayed about the same. Only 26% of those surveyed got both questions right.

  • College graduates are more likely to know that U.S. manufacturing output has increased than are people with less than a bachelor’s degree. Still, college graduates are about as likely to say output has increased rather than decreased (43% versus 39%), with the rest saying it’s stayed about the same. About half (51%) of people without a four-year college degree say manufacturing output has fallen, versus a third (32%) who say it has risen.
  • Older people generally are more likely than younger people to believe manufacturing output has fallen. More than half (56%) of 50- to 64-year-olds, and nearly half (49%) of people 65 and older, say that’s the case, compared with 39% of 18- to 29-year-olds.
  • Income also appears to be a factor: 42% of people earning $100,000 or more a year say manufacturing output has increased, the highest level of any income bracket, while 55% of those earning between $30,000 and $49,999 a year say output has declined.

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