The manufacturing industry is responsible for producing goods. Typically, these goods are produced in large factories, as compared to more artisanal kinds of production that are considered a type of craft-making rather than manufacturing, per se. Manufacturing can also include the building of infrastructure, such as roads and facilities for producing and distributing water and power.


Manufacturing has a long history in the United States. During the industrial revolution of the 19th century, the United States went from being a nation that made most of its money in farming to being a country that produced the bulk of its economic exports in the form of manufactured goods. Much of the prosperity experienced by the United States after the Second World War can be tied to a booming manufacturing sector.


Manufacturing is a source of jobs, as well as the segment from which is derived a significant portion of the nation's wealth. When a country exports more than it imports--a condition referred to as a trade surplus--it generally receives more money than it spends, which results in greater wealth. In the first half of the 20th century, the U.S. experienced a trade surplus due largely to its manufacturing sector. Now, however, the manufacturing sector has shrunk, leaving the country with a trade deficit (imports have outstripped exports).


There are a number of benefits to manufacturing, including the creation of jobs and development of new technologies. According to the Business Council of New York State, manufacturers in the U.S. are responsible for almost two-thirds of private-sector research and development, totaling more than $120 million in 2002. According to the Economic Policy Institute, manufacturing industries generated $1.6 trillion in gross domestic product (GDP) in 2006, accounting for more than 12 percent of the total.


The percentage of the U.S. economy devoted to manufacturing has shrunk in recent decades as the country has taken on more service-industry jobs. This may have a negative effect on the economy due to positive ancillary benefits of the manufacturing sector. For example, according to the Manufacturing Journal, a University of Michigan study shows for each job in manufacturing, more than six "spin-off" jobs are created.

Expert Insight

According to the National Association of Manufacturers, the manufacturing industry's leading trade group, the United States remains the world’s largest manufacturer, producing 22 percent of all products and employing almost 12 million Americans, approximately 10 percent of the total workforce. Also, in 2008, the average U.S. manufacturing worker earned $14,000 more annually in pay and benefits than the average non-manufacturing worker.