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Local economist: Manufacturing is automated, hasn’t gone anywhere

Professor Dennis Hoffman of the W.P. Carey School of Business said manufacturing is back in the form of automation. (Facebook Photo/W. P. Carey School of Business - ASU)

For those who say we need to bring back manufacturing, a local economist says it hasn’t gone anywhere.

“Manufacturing is already back,” said Dennis Hoffman, professor of economics at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. “But it’s not coming back with jobs, it’s coming back with automation.”

Manufacturing output in the United States over the last twenty years is up on the order of 50 percent, he said. At the same time, manufacturing employment is down 30 percent.

“This has nothing to do with shipping jobs abroad, this is automation,” he said. “It is (a) relentless robotic cycle that is taking place across all manufacturing and goods producing activities.”

And it’s going to continue, Hoffman said.

“That’s why to me the route that we need to pursue is thinking about higher-margin, higher-wage earning service activities,” he said. “Be they in health care tourism, be they in senior care, be they in education, any aspect of the economy, I think we need to be thinking about this.”

Instead of trying to turn back the clock and trying to make the U.S. economy look like it did in 1983, he said.

“I’m sorry it’s just not going to happen,” Hoffman said.

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