All things being equal, you’d still rather be a factory worker in America today than a similarly skilled worker in another industry. That’s the conclusion of Commerce Department economists, who have combed national statistics and say the “wage premium” in manufacturing is alive and well.
A typical U.S. factory worker takes home higher pay and has better benefits than a comparable worker outside of manufacturing, Mark Doms, the department’s undersecretary for economic affairs, said in a recent interview. The findings, he said, rebut a simple comparison of hourly wages across industries that appears to show manufacturing workers slipping behind everyone else in the economy after years of earning more.
“When you’re trying to compare apples to apples,” Doms said, “you do see this manufacturing wage premium [has] been robust over time.”
Manufacturing has been a rare success industry in the recovery from the Great Recession, adding 500,000 jobs since the end of 2009. President Obama often hails it as a vehicle for middle-class prosperity.