Economists say that automation is by far the biggest factor behind the decline in manufacturing jobs across the country. Technological advances mean that fewer factory workers are required to maintain the same level of output.
Since 2001, roughly one-in-three manufacturing jobs have been lost in Erie, but manufacturing output has remained relatively steady. Manufacturing represented 28 percent of Erie’s GDP in 2001. In 2015, it was 26 percent.
This pattern holds true across the country, according to Mark Muro, the director of policy at the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institute. Today, it only takes six workers to generate $1 million in manufacturing output, says Muro. The same level of output would have required 25 workers in 1980.