Right to Work, by the Numbers: Part 5

Employment in Manufacturing

Today, only about 8.2% of U.S. workers are employed in manufacturing.

Even before the Great Recession, manufacturing employment in the U.S. had been steadily declining, with a loss of approximately 4,000,000 jobs between 1998 and 2007, the decade preceding the recession. Another 1.6 million jobs in manufacturing were lost between 2008 and 2010. (In the next post in this series, I will discuss more fully the state by state losses of manufacturing jobs during the Great Recession.)

The following chart then ranks the states by the total number of manufacturing jobs in March 2013, with the right-to-work states in bold:

State No of Jobs in 0000s Rank
California 1,242.0 1
Texas     865.8     2
Ohio 663.9 3
Illinois 583.2 4
Pennsylvania 569.0 5
Michigan     548.8     6
Indiana     491.6     7
Wisconsin 463.1 8
New York 447.7 9
North Carolina     443.1     10
Georgia 356.1 11
Tennessee     318.9     12
Florida     314.8     13
Minnesota 306.4 14
Washington 288.0 15
New Jersey 250.4 16
Massachusetts 250.1 17
Missouri 248.1 18
Alabama     246.7     19
Virginia     234.1     20
Kentucky 229.4 21
South Carolina     221.5     22
Iowa     215.4     23
Oregon 174.3 24
Kansas     165.4     25
Connecticut 163.3 26
Arkansas     155.9     27
Arizona     155.4     28
Louisiana     143.1     29
Mississippi     135.9     30
Oklahoma     134.2     31
Colorado 132.4 32
Utah     119.6     33
Maryland 106.4 34
Nebraska     96.7     35
New Hampshire 65.6 36
Idaho     58.8     37
Maine 50.8 38
West Virginia 48.5 39
South Dakota     41.8     40
Rhode Island 40.3 41
Nevada     39.6     42
Vermont 32.5 43
New Mexico 29.1 44
Delaware 25.9 45
North Dakota     24.9     46
Montana 17.7 47
Hawaii 13.1 48
Alaska 11.6 49
Wyoming     9.8     50

Even including Indiana and Michigan as “right-to-work” states, six of the top ten states in manufacturing employment are pro-labor states.

Among the states ranked 11th through 20th, the split is five to five.

Among the states ranked 21st through 30th, the split is seven to three, in favor of the “right to work” states, but those states combined employ fewer people in manufacturing (1,192,600) than California (1,242,000). So the rankings start to become somewhat meaningless at that point.

In total, pro-labor states employ 6,202,700 manufacturing workers while “right to work” states employ 5,537,900–even including Indiana and Michigan. Excluding Indiana and Michigan, they employ 4,495,500.

And these are the totals, after a half-century of population shift from the “Rust Belt,” the Northeast and the Midwest, to the “Sun Belt,” the South and Southwest.

So the idea that manufacturing has moved decisively away from pro-labor states simply is not borne out by the numbers.

More specifically, proponents of “right to work” often cite Texas and Oklahoma as booming new centers of manufacturing, but those claims are not nearly as impressive if one takes even a cursory look at the statistics.

Texas has a population that is 225.73% higher than that of Ohio (26,059,203 to 11,544,225), but, even though Texas has the second highest number of manufacturing jobs in the U.S., it has only 201,900 more manufacturing jobs than Ohio, or 130.411% of the jobs in Ohio.

In contrast, California has 145.98% the population of Texas and 143.50% of the manufacturing jobs found in Texas—making it all the more ironic that Governor Perry of Texas keeps touting his state’s being on the verge of overtaking California as the manufacturing powerhouse among the U.S. states.

Likewise, however much manufacturing employment may have recently increased in Oklahoma the state still ranks lower in manufacturing employment (31st) than population (28th), and manufacturing accounts for just 8.36% of the total employment in the state, or just barely above the national average of 8.2%.

Moreover, it is important to note that in both of these states, oil and gas production is still a major industry and much of the manufacturing base continues to serve those industries, providing equipment for the drilling sites and refineries. Those industries are certainly very subject to economic fluctuations, but they are not necessarily subject to the same fluctuations as other kinds of manufacturing. So, measuring manufacturing employment in these two states against that in other states during a deep recession that did not dramatically depress oil and gas costs for any extended period is not especially revelatory, if not problematic.

13 thoughts on “Right to Work, by the Numbers: Part 5

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  7. Pingback: “Right to Work,” by the Numbers: Part 10: Unemployment Rates in August 2015 | The Academe Blog

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  9. Pingback: “Right to Work” by the Numbers: Part 12: Unemployment Rates in Mid-December 2015 | The Academe Blog

  10. Pingback: “Right to Work,” by the Numbers: Part 13: Poverty Rates in 2014 | The Academe Blog

  11. Pingback: “Right to Work,” by the Numbers: Part 15 | ACADEME BLOG

  12. Pingback: “Right to Work,” By the Numbers: Part 14 | Ohio Labor

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