Howard Wial

There is a strain of thought among some policy experts that manufacturing, especially in the Midwest, is a dead-end for regional economic development.  In a series of recent Brookings reports, my co-authors and I have challenged that view. The conventional wisdom won’t die easily, though.

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American manufacturing is basically the same everywhere. It’s an albatross around the necks of places that depend on it, preventing them from attracting the “creative class,” which drives economic development today. Except in a few very high tech industries, such as pharmaceuticals, manufacturers are looking for lower costs above all else. That’s why, if they’re staying in the United States at all, they’re moving to low-wage locations.  Metropolitan areas, with their higher costs, offer manufacturers no special advantages. These beliefs about the geography of manufacturing in the United States

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The rebound of manufacturing jobs has been one of the bright spots of an otherwise sluggish economic recovery.  The United States had 3.7 percent more manufacturing jobs in February 2012 than in February 2010, representing a more robust rate of growth than that for overall employment, which rose by only 2.7 percent during the same time period. The post-recession rebound of manufacturing employment has been a driver of economic recovery in a number of the nation’s major metropolitan areas, including several manufacturing centers.  The latest edition of Brookings’ MetroMonitor, which has tracked

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Despite small gains during the last two years, the trend in U.S. manufacturing jobs for the last 30 years has been downward, leading some to argue that long-term manufacturing job loss is inevitable. But our research shows otherwise. There are two common versions of the “inevitability” argument. One holds that U.S.

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In a New York Times op-ed, Christina Romer, the former chair of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors, argues--contra her former boss--that there is no compelling justification for policies aimed at supporting U.S. manufacturing. She lays out and rejects a few theoretical justifications for supporting manufacturing, including the idea that there are large positive externalities--large social benefits relative to what private companies can capture--tied to the sector. Her arguments are unconvincing.

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America’s financial sector is in the news almost every day, its role in the economy and relationship to government subjects of public debate. “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!” is a common protest chant in the Occupy Wall Street movement, while Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke defends the Fed’s assistance to banks during the financial crisis in 2008. Meanwhile, the nation as a whole remains stuck in a recovery that feels like a continuation of the Great Recession. Is Wall Street benefiting at the expense of Main Street? The December edition of Brookings’ MetroMonitor takes a metropo

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Over the summer there was some concern in the media about falling wages during the current barely perceptible economic recovery. Nationwide, Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that inflation-adjusted average hourly wages have been trending downward since late 2010. Similar wage declines occurred, starting at various times in 2009 or 2010, in most major industries. Because wages don’t usually fall even during the most severe recessions, this is (bad) news.  In the latest edition of Brookings’ MetroMonitor, I looked at where these wage declines were occurring. Using inflation-adjusted average

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Last week, Gabe Bullard posted an article on the WFPL website, Louisville’s NPR station, about a recent Brookings report on how economic development policy in Louisville and seven other metropolitan areas responded to the loss of manufacturing jobs. By selectively quoting and citing the report, Bullard makes the report sound like an attack on Louisville’s major economic development policies and its major economic development organization, Greater Louisville, Inc. (GLI).

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Last week President Obama announced the creation of an Advanced Manufacturing Partnership intended to create good manufacturing jobs and improve U.S. competitiveness. The Partnership, supported by more than $500 million in existing federal funds, is a government-industry-university initiative oriented toward high tech innovation in manufacturing.

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The current edition of Brookings’ MetroMonitor shows that government job growth is associated with the economic performance of America’s metropolitan areas since the beginning of the recession. Among the nation’s 100 largest metro areas, the 20 that have done the best since the recession started (taking into account recovery of jobs, output, unemployment rates, and house prices) are Augusta, Austin, Boston,   Buffalo, Columbus, Dallas, El Paso, Honolulu, Jackson, Knoxville, Little Rock, Madison, McAllen, Nashville, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Pittsburgh, Rochester, San Antonio, and Washington. Of th

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