Manufacturing Jobs Growth Differs Sharply Across Post-World II Presidential Administrations

More manufacturing jobs created in Democratic administrations than Republican ones, especially in older industrial states
Date of Press Release: 
October 15, 2012

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HARRISBURG, PA (October 15, 2012) – State-level manufacturing job growth has varied across the 16 presidential administrations since 1948, with significant gains in most states across the seven Democratic terms and significant losses under the nine Republican, according to The Manufacturing Jobs Score, 1949-2011, a new analysis of official government data by the Keystone Research Center (KRC) and Iowa Policy Project (IPP). The Democratic administrations have added an average of between 160,000 and 250,000 manufacturing jobs each year, while Republican ones have lost manufacturing jobs at about the same rate.

Some of the discrepancy may be due to the timing of economic downturns when Republican presidents were in office, but policy differences likely played a role as well, according to the authors.

Manufacturing Jobs Gained or Lost by Presidential Administration, 1948-2011

Click here for an interactive chart of manufacturing jobs gain or loss by state since 1948

“How much luck or policy differences explain these results is open to debate and further research,” said KRC Executive Director and economist, Dr. Stephen Herzenberg. “But as we’ve been reminded by the auto industry rescue of 2009, policy choices matter when it comes to building a stronger manufacturing sector.”

The two think tanks undertook an analysis of manufacturing jobs in the wake of debate about the overall “jobs score” under Republican and Democratic presidents spurred by former President Bill Clinton’s speech to the Democratic National Convention. Manufacturing jobs have particular significance because they pay better to equivalent groups of workers than jobs in other sectors. Manufacturing also leverages more related employment (up and down the supply chain and in consumer industries) and more export growth than other sectors.

“These are big differences” said Dr. Colin Gordon, a senior research consultant at IPP. “If the manufacturing jobs score under Republicans had matched that under Democrats, the U.S. would have roughly twice as many manufacturing jobs as it does today—the U.S. manufacturing jobs share today would be similar to Germany’s.”

KRC and IPP ran the job numbers three ways to see if the results were robust across alternate definitions of the period for which each president is held accountable. The findings were similar using all three methods:

    • Across nine Republican terms, U.S. manufacturing jobs fell 7.3 million to 9 million, depending on method.
    • Across seven Democratic terms, manufacturing employment rose by 5.4 million to 7 million.
    • Trends in four regions reflect long-term shifts of manufacturing away from the Northeast and the Midwest and towards the South and the West. Averaging results using the three estimation methods:
      • In the Northeast, about 4 million manufacturing jobs were lost in Republican administrations and nearly 900,000 gained in Democratic.
      • In the Midwest, about 3.2 million manufacturing jobs were lost in Republican administrations and about 2 million created in Democratic.
      • In the South, about 925,000 manufacturing jobs were lost in Republican administrations and about 2.1 million manufacturing jobs created in Democratic.
      • In the West, about 380,000 manufacturing jobs were lost in Republican administrations and about 1.55 million jobs created in Democratic.

Manufacturing Jobs by Presidential Administration Since 1948

Click here for an interactive chart of manufacturing jobs gain or loss by state since 1948

  • In individual states, manufacturing job differences are most pronounced in Northeastern and Midwestern states. For example (again averaging results using the three methods):
    • In New York, about 1.3 million jobs were lost in Republican administrations and about 120,000 gained in Democratic administrations.
    • In Pennsylvania, nearly 1.1 million manufacturing jobs were lost in Republican administrations, while 280,000 were gained in Democratic.
    • In Michigan, about 750,000 jobs have been lost in Republican administrations and a third of this number gained in Democratic.
    • In Ohio, about 890,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in Republican terms, versus gains of 430,000 in Democratic.
  • Several Midwestern states performed better on balance across all administrations, raising questions about their state-specific industrial structure, public policies or other characteristics that explain this result:
    • In Minnesota, just over 40,000 manufacturing jobs were lost in Republican administrations, and just over 150,000 gained under Democrats.
    • In Iowa, nearly 30,000 manufacturing jobs were lost under Republican presidents, and 100,000 gained under Democratic.
    • In Wisconsin, 135,000 manufacturing jobs were lost in Republican administrations, while 200,000 were gained in Democratic.
  • In the South, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Virginia mirrored the regional experience of losing about half as many jobs under Republicans as they gained under Democrats.
    • North Carolina slightly underperformed the Southern average: 110,000 manufacturing jobs were lost in Republican administrations and 185,000 gained in Democratic.
    • Arkansas, Florida, and Texas performed better than the regional advantage. Florida experienced little manufacturing job change, on net, across all Republican administrations but gained nearly 200,000 jobs under Democrats.
  • In the West:
    • In California, the nation’s most populous state, over 400,000 manufacturing jobs were lost in Republican administrations, while 1 million were gained under Democrats.
    • In Washington, 35,000 manufacturing jobs were lost in Republican administration and four times as many—140,000—gained in Democratic.
    • In Colorado, about 3,000 jobs were gained under Republican administrations, versus 83,000 to 90,000 jobs under Democratic.
  • In seven states manufacturing jobs performance was slightly better under Republicans (South Dakota, Wyoming, and New Mexico) or virtually identical under Republicans and Democrats (Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota, and Utah).

At the conclusion of The Manufacturing Jobs Score, the authors point to the role of both luck and policy in explaining the result. Democratic presidents’ greater focus on job growth relative to fighting inflation is one important policy difference. Democratic administrations have also been more supportive of subsidized technical assistance to manufacturers. Trade policy is not a likely explanation because both parties have supported free trade.

Online interactive graphics allow interested users to view changes in manufacturing jobs across presidential terms:

A bar chart allows users to see job gains or losses in each state in all presidential terms:

http://public.tableausoftware.com/views/manufacturingbyadminsince1948sta...

An online map allows users to view gains or losses in all 50 states within each presidential term:

http://public.tableausoftware.com/views/manufacturingbyadminsince1948sta...

Reporters that want assistance converting maps or charts to a form suitable for print or reproduction online, should contact Colin Gordon. Reporters interested in obtaining the underlying data can contact Mark Price at 717-255-7145 (price@keystoneresearch.org).