The industrial sector in America has been a long-standing and essential part of the country’s modern economy. Rising to its peak during and in the decades following World War II, U.S. manufacturing generated all types of materials and goods, many of which shaped 20th-century infrastructure, technology, and society all around the globe.


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A combination of rapid productivity and quality led to prosperity for American manufacturing companies. The resulting economic growth and boom of stable professional opportunities helped shaped the middle class.

From the late 1940s to the early 1970s, the U.S. experienced what is sometimes called the Golden Age of the American economy, mainly due to the market growth across the manufacturing sector. At the time, American manufacturing companies were some of the most productive and profitable in the world. In many cases, that remains true, but periods of decline—due to factors both international and domestic—have curbed America’s previous industrial lead.

The sector still remains vital and highly competitive. Today, U.S. manufacturing is in the top third globally and outputs remain at record highs. Technology, changes in material and product demands, and other developments through more recent decades have led to many changes within the sector itself. Even with these shifts, manufacturing in the United States remains a critical and growing force in the national and global economy.

Manufacturing Market Growth And Obstacles

Manufacturing growth is measured through a few different parameters that indicate performance and resilience. In the industrial market, data on sales figures and investments, job growth, output, and exports will be used to determine market growth. Although U.S. manufacturing isn’t at the levels of its heyday in the mid-twentieth century, the sector continues to achieve new output records.

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According to data from the National Association of Manufacturers, over the last ten years, manufacturing output in the U.S. has grown from $1800 billion to more than $2300 billion, accounting for nearly 11 percent of gross product. As of 2020, there were more than 12 million jobs in the sector, which offer employees an average salary of $80,000.

Manufacturing trends like re-shoring, re-skilling, and adoption of more efficient and sophisticated production technology give reasons to be optimistic about the future of manufacturing, but there are many challenges affecting the sector. Currently, major factors slowing growth in U.S. manufacturing include labor shortages due to increased worker retirements and a persistent skills gap.

Over the last two years, supply chain issues have compounded inventory management obstacles and global competition for resources. Widespread adoption of technology, like robotics, AI-operated machinery, and digital factory infrastructure, can contribute to increased output, but transition into new technology can also cause disruptions and growing pains for companies and workers. Presently, manufacturing is behind finance, insurance, real estate, and business services as a contributor to the US’s GDP.

What Are The Top Manufacturing Companies In The U.S.?

Globally, the top manufacturers headquartered in the United States are Apple, Cardinal Health, Ford Motors, General Motors, Dell, Nestle, Johnson & Johnson, General Electric, Intel, IBM, Procter & Gamble, and PepsiCo. While these are some of the biggest companies in the world, the vast majority of export manufacturers are small businesses. Nearly 97 percent of United States industrial exporters are small companies.

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The most profitable manufacturing sectors in the United States are chemical production; consumer and electronic goods; food, beverage, and tobacco; aerospace and transportation; automotive; industrial machinery; and fabricated metal products. The United States’ biggest manufacturing competitors are China and the European Union.

Although Apple is currently the world’s highest revenue-generating manufacturer, major international competitors are Toyota, Volkswagen, Samsung, Foxconn, Daimler, and China Railway and Engineering Group.

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