INFOGRAPHIC: The Facts About Manufacturing
There’s a very old parable, thought to have originated in the Indian subcontinent, of six blind (or blind-folded) men asked to describe an elephant. They reach different conclusions depending upon which part of the elephant they touch:
Side – it’s like a wall
Leg – it’s like a tree
Trunk – it’s like a snake
Tusk – it’s like a spear
Ear – it’s like a fan
Tail – it’s like a rope
The point is that people have the tendency to project their partial observations to represent the entirety of something. Each man was “correct” in their assessment, they just did a poor job of explaining the entirety of the elephant.
A similar challenge arises when trying to describe or characterize the role of manufacturing. We use disparate data sources to see parts of manufacturing – Bureau of Economic Analysis, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census, International Trade Administration, National Science Foundation and the Federal Reserve Economic Data. These data sources help us to remove our blind-folds and see a part of manufacturing more clearly. But like the parable, taken alone they do not represent the entirety. The more complete picture of manufacturing includes all these elements:
Manufacturing is the 6th largest employer
Manufacturing jobs reflect higher earnings
More than half of all exports are manufactured goods
Manufacturing consistently represents more than 10 percent of GDP
Manufacturing is the primary source (about two-thirds) of R&D
Like the elephant, U.S. manufacturing cannot be adequately explained through a narrowly focused observation and analysis, but by taking a broader look at the facts about manufacturing.