Austin Manufacturing Surprise

Scott Francis
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Caught this article in the Austin American-Statesman the other day about Austin manufacturing output growing 4x the rate of the overall local economy:

Local manufacturing output has skyrocketed over the past decade, growing more than four times faster than the metro-area economy as a whole, according to a recent analysis compiled by Brian Kelsey, founder of Civic Analytics, a local economic development firm.
Manufacturing now accounts for roughly 20 percent of Austin’s gross metro product (the total goods and services produced in the area) up from just 9 percent in 2001. The sector is now the single-largest component of the local economy, surpassing the public sector.

Which sounds amazing, and great for the economy.  And I guess it is.  But there’s a reason that people in America feel like manufacturing is down, or that the US isn’t the worlds’ largest (or second largest) manufacturer – because employment doesn’t reflect the growth.  In fact:

Despite those soaring production levels, employment at area factories has plummeted over the same period. Manufacturers have cut 38 percent of their payrolls since 2001, a net loss of more than 30,000 jobs, according to Texas Workforce Commission data.

While employment has trickled upward 4% each of the last two years, when you lose 30,000 jobs in one sector, it doesn’t feel like a come back.  Its nice to see Austin experiencing a manufacturing renaissance, and it is good for the economy – but it isn’t going to produce the jobs it once did.