Why does automation not also affect Chinese manufacturing, especially as most of the Chinese manufacturing technology came from the US as US corporations offshored their production for the US market? If Chinese manufacturing is not up to date with automation, like the US is assumed to be, how do the Chinese, even with cheap labor, undersell US automated factories? How did Chinese manufacturing employment increase in a mere four years by an amount equal to the total manufacturing employment in the US?
The US Bureau of Economic Analysis shows only 11.2 million full-time US manufacturing jobs in 2010. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows 11.7 million US manufacturing jobs in 2011, down from 15.3 million in 2002.
In contrast, China, an industrial and manufacturing backwater for most of my life, had 112 million manufacturing jobs in 2006. In a mere four years (2002-2006), the increase in China's manufacturing employment was as large as today's total employment in US manufacturing. As long ago as 2006, China's manufacturing employment was about 10 times the current US manufacturing employment. The Chinese population is about four times larger than the US population, but China's manufacturing population is proportionately greater -- 10 times larger. Indeed, Chinese manufacturing employees almost equal the total number of employees in all occupations in the US (Manufacturing and Technology News, December 15, 2009).
Obviously, something is wrong with Walsh's article or the graphs on which he relied.
America's manufacturing prowess cannot be found in the statistical data. The US is primarily an exporter of Agricultural commodities. The US imports almost twice the amount of manufactured goods as it exports. Indeed, according to the US Census Bureau Statistical Abstract, US imports of manufactured goods are 5.5 times larger than US imports of crude oil and four times larger than all imports of mineral fuel. Yet, we hear about energy dependency, not manufacturing dependency.
As of 2010 the "superpower" US economy still had a trade surplus in airplanes and airplane parts and a small $6 billion surplus in scientific instruments, but that is about all.
In ADP equipment and office machinery, the US exported $22.2 billion in 2010 (latest information at time of writing), down from $44.6 billion in 2000. US imports in 2010 of ADP equipment and office machinery were $113.5 billion, or 5.1 times exports.
The US cannot even make its own clothes and shoes. In 2010 footwear imports were 28.7 times exports. Clothing imports were 24.6 times exports.
Electrical machinery exports were $77 billion; imports were $120 billion.
Exports of power generating machinery were $33 billion; imports were $42 billion.
Exports of television, VCRs were $21.5 billion; imports were $137 billion.
US exports of vehicles were $88 billion; and imports were $179 billion.
US news reports of thousands upon thousands of discharged US workers never cite their replacement by automation. The news story is always that the plant is being closed and the jobs moved abroad. Any review of America's former manufacturing centers verifies this. Boarded up plants and cities and towns in decline are the remains of America's formerly world dominant manufacturing economy.
The loss of the US post-war trade surplus in manufacturing has left the US with a huge trade deficit. The charts on which Walsh relied left him unaware of the fact that China has a large trade surplus with the US, and the US has a large trade deficit not only with China but with the world.
The fact that the US has to import not only manufactured goods, but also high-tech goods from China, an inconceivable outcome during the second half of the 20th century, is powerful testimony to the decline of the US as a manufacturing powerhouse.
It took some doing to obscure the facts and to present the US as a rival to China in manufacturing prowess. How did it happen?