Phenomenal Gains in Manufacturing Productivity
The chart above shows annual real manufacturing output per worker from 1947-2011 using data released today by the BEA for manufacturing output by industry, and data from the BLS on manufacturing employment. In 1950, the average U.S. factory worker produced $19,500 (in 2011 dollars) of output, and by 1976 the amount of output per worker had doubled to $38,500. Output per worker doubled again to $74,400 (in 2011 dollars) by 1997 (21 years later) and then doubled again to $152,800 by 2010, but it only took 13 years for the last doubling because worker productivity has been accelerating. Last year, manufacturing output per worker increased to a new record high of $156,500 (see chart), and almost ten times the output per worker in 1947. In other words, the average American factory worker today produces more output in an hour than his or her counterpart produced working almost a ten hour day in 1947 – and that’s why we’re producing record levels of output with fewer workers.