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Manufacturing as a source of jobs won't recover

Robert McGuckin, director of economic research for The Conference Board and keynote speaker at the Manufacturing Perspectives session held during Rockwell’s Automation Fair in Orlando last month, says that the decline of jobs in the nation’s manufacturing sector will not be reversed.

“Look at the broad historical sweep and you see that manufacturing’s decline as a source of jobs has been ongoing since the 1860s,” McGuckin told his audience. “Steadily increasing productivity is what causes it. It’s just that now it’s happening so fast, and it’s happening globally instead of regionally. It’s not jobs from New England migrating to North Carolina, it’s jobs from North Carolina moving to Asia.” There are winners and losers, says McGuckin, but overall it’s a win-win game.

According to McGuckin, job creation and destruction is essential. “It’s a churn that is pervasive in dynamic economies. Sure, there will be a weeding out of unproductive firms as better performers prosper and business opportunities are created. But it’s unavoidable.”

How do you succeed in the face of such Darwinian inevitability? “Incentives, flexibility, and retraining are critical,” McGuckin told his audience. “Focus on making transitions easier instead of trying to stop them.”

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