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WA manufacturing jobs grew with Democratic presidents in office, shrank under Republicans

Washington state lost an average 37,000 manufacturing jobs under Republican presidents, and gained almost four times as many – 141,000 – with Democrats in office.

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Click chart to see state-by-state job gains/losses across all presidential terms.
See also: gains/losses in all 50 states within each presidential term.

State-level manufacturing job growth has varied across the 16 presidential administrations since 1948, with significant gains in most states across the seven Democratic terms and significant losses under the nine Republican, according to The Manufacturing Jobs Score, 1949-2011, a new analysis of official government data by the Keystone Research Center (KRC) and Iowa Policy Project (IPP).

The Democratic administrations have added an average of between 160,000 and 250,000 manufacturing jobs each year, while Republican ones have lost manufacturing jobs at about the same rate. Some of the discrepancy may be due to the timing of economic downturns when Republican presidents were in office, but policy differences likely played a role as well, according to the authors.

Download the full report

The Manufacturing Jobs Score: 1949-2012 Download

“How much luck or policy differences explain these results is open to debate and further research,” said KRC Executive Director and economist, Dr. Stephen Herzenberg. “But as we’ve been reminded by the auto industry rescue of 2009, policy choices matter when it comes to building a stronger manufacturing sector.”

The two think tanks undertook an analysis of manufacturing jobs in the wake of debate about the overall “jobs score” under Republican and Democratic presidents spurred by former President Bill Clinton’s speech to the Democratic National Convention. Manufacturing jobs have particular significance because they pay better to equivalent groups of workers than jobs in other sectors. Manufacturing also leverages more related employment (up and down the supply chain and in consumer industries) and more export growth than other sectors.

“These are big differences” said Dr. Colin Gordon, a senior research consultant at IPP. “If the manufacturing jobs score under Republicans had matched that under Democrats, the U.S. would have roughly twice as many manufacturing jobs as it does today—the U.S. manufacturing jobs share today would be similar to Germany’s.”

KRC and IPP ran the job numbers three ways to see if the results were robust across alternate definitions of the period for which each president is held accountable. The findings were similar using all three methods: across nine Republican terms, U.S. manufacturing jobs fell 7.3 million to 9 million, depending on method. Across seven Democratic terms, manufacturing employment rose by 5.4 million to 7 million.

Looking at individual states, the differences between administrations are most pronounced in Northeastern and Midwestern states. For example:

  • New York: about 1.3 million jobs lost in Republican administrations, about 120,000 gained in Democratic administrations.
  • Pennsylvania: nearly 1.1 million manufacturing jobs lost in Republican administrations, 280,000 gained in Democratic.
  • Michigan: about 750,000 jobs been lost in Republican administrations, one-third of this number gained in Democratic.
  • Ohio: about 890,000 manufacturing jobs been lost in Republican terms, gains of 430,000 in Democratic.

In three Midwestern states, the difference between Democratic and Republican administrations was still apparent – but manufacturing jobs performed better on balance across all administrations. Whether state-specific industrial structure, public policies or other characteristics explain this result is still an open question:

  • Minnesota: just over 40,000 manufacturing jobs were lost in Republican administrations, and just over 150,000 gained under Democrats.
  • Iowa: nearly 30,000 manufacturing jobs were lost under Republican presidents, and 100,000 gained under Democratic.
  • Wisconsin: 135,000 manufacturing jobs were lost in Republican administrations, while 200,000 were gained in Democratic.

Seven states didn’t follow the national pattern:

  • Four had virtually identical growth under Republicans and Democrats: Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota, and Utah.
  • Three states saw manufacturing jobs do slightly better under Republican administrations: South Dakota, Wyoming, and New Mexico.

At the conclusion of The Manufacturing Jobs Score, the authors point to the role of both luck and policy in explaining the result. Democratic presidents’ greater focus on job growth relative to fighting inflation is one important policy difference. Democratic administrations have also been more supportive of subsidized technical assistance to manufacturers. Trade policy is not a likely explanation because both parties have supported free trade.

INFOGRAPHICS: This bar chart shows manufacturing job gains or losses in each state in all presidential terms. This this online map shows manufacturing job gains and losses in all 50 states within each presidential term.

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