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The uneven manufacturing rebound

Marketplace Contributor Apr 30, 2012

Jeremy Hobson: The nation’s factories and plants have been churning out jobs pretty steadily since the recession ended. And this morning, we’ll find out if that manufacturing rebound continues; specifically, we’re about to find out about regional manufacturing activity around Chicago and Dallas.

And those regional reports are key, because, as our New York bureau chief Heidi Moore reports, the manfuacturing recovery isn’t shared equally across the country.

Heidi Moore: Four years ago, who would have thought the auto industry would be a bright spot of U.S. manufacturing? But it is.

Paul Dales: There are even signs that places like Detroit are starting to improve a little bit.

That’s Paul Dales, with Capital Economics. He says autos have helped that the Midwest and the South to lead the manufacturing bounce.

Peter Morici teaches economics at the University of Maryland’s business school. He says other parts of the country are benefitting from high-tech.

Peter Morici: Places like North Carolina, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan — upstate New York, folks don’t realize, is a hotbed of high-tech manufacturing.

Morici notes that we need hundreds of thousands of jobs a month to make a dent in the unemployment crisis; we’re currently adding only a fifth of that. Dales says that’s why the recent bump is not the stuff of a solid recovery.

Dales: People talk about manufacturing coming back to be a really big part of the U.S. economy. That’s not really the case.

Dales says that the U.S. has an advantage in manufacturing where we have skilled labor — as in high-tech or aerospace. But we can’t compete with India and China on low labor costs, he says. And we shouldn’t even try.

I’m Heidi Moore for Marketplace.

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