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Manufacturing: A Powerful Legacy in Indiana

About 539,000 people worked in Indiana's manufacturing sector in 2016. (emirkrasnic/Pixabay)
About 539,000 people worked in Indiana's manufacturing sector in 2016. (emirkrasnic/Pixabay)
June 25, 2019

INDIANAPOLIS — The manufacturing industry has experienced a steady decline across the U.S. over the past several decades. But a new report reveals Indiana is bucking that trend.

According to the findings from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, nearly one in four workers in the country was employed in manufacturing in 1940. That share fell to 15% in 2000 and then to about 10% in 2016.

The Center's State Initiative Director Neil Ridley explained that, while Indiana also experienced a downturn, its manufacturing sector remains strong.

"Indiana has long been a center of manufacturing going back to the 1940s, and today it's one of two states, along with Wisconsin, where manufacturing is still the largest employer,” Ridley said. “That's a sign of the powerful legacy of manufacturing industry."

The report underscored increases in production capability, with manufacturing adding $4 trillion in economic output nationally from 1947-2016. In Indiana, manufacturing output per worker rose from $123,000 in 2000 to $171,000 in 2016.

At the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, Commissioner Teresa Lubbers noted the manufacturing industry of today is much different than a half-century ago.

"We now are looking at manufacturing facilities that are using robots, computers and machines to create the products that we rely on,” Lubbers said. “So in order to do that, we're really training Hoosier workers for the credentials that they need for 21st-century manufacturing."

Chemical was the top manufacturing industry in Indiana in 2016, followed by "motor vehicles, bodies and trailers and parts," and then, primary metal. Lubbers said she expects the sector to continue to evolve.

"We need to have a diverse economy,” she said. “We're really strong in growing health-care jobs and technology jobs as well. But manufacturing is a part of that, and it just needs to be conveyed to people the opportunities that are there for really cutting-edge industries and jobs."

The report attributes the changes in manufacturing to the growing role of the service sector, intensified international competition and increased foreign trade.

Disclosure: Georgetown University, Center on Education and the Workforce contributes to our fund for reporting on Education, Livable Wages/Working Families. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN