In 1990, the manufacturing industry employed more workers than any other sector in 36 states. Today, the picture is totally different: Manufacturing is the dominant industry in only seven states.
What happened? A few recessions, the rise of off-shoring and imports from China and the rest of the world and the explosion of the health-care industry, to begin with. Over the last two decades, employment in the manufacturing sector has plummeted, from nearly 18 million jobs in 1990 to just over 12 million jobs today. (Update: A smart reader points out that the decline in manufacturing jobs is actually more closely tied to automation rather than offshoring. The U.S. is manufacturing more now than it ever has, but much of that work can be done by machines — which don’t require salaries or health care coverage.)