Is manufacturing recovering? Does it matter?

At its website, the steelworkers' union (USW) recently touted significant, if mostly ignored, changes in the direction of the U.S. economy. While the economy as a whole has failed to create the number of jobs to sustain a recovery let alone ensure everyone can find work, the manufacturing sector has real growth. Check out this graph posted at

After a long trend of manufacturing decline beginning in 2001, the above graph shows that manufacturing is showing signs of life.

This is important for a couple of basic reasons:

1) Manufacturing is a typically unionized economic sector with high-paying jobs that can support other sectors. For example, the making of wind turbines creates a market for parts suppliers, raw materials and more). Long-term growth in manufacturing will lead to broader economic recovery.

2) While some of the new growth is associated with traditional "rust belt" industries like auto, according to a new post by USW Leo Gerard at HuffPo, with new support from the Obama administration emergent industries that rely on manufacturing are seeing real growth and are transforming how Americans are working and living:

In industrial Pittsburgh's heyday, the smoke was so dense streetlights remained lit at noon. White-collar workers changed soot-covered shirts mid-day. The region's residents suffered high rates of asthma and emphysema. In 1948, an inversion trapped industrial pollution in a small town south of Pittsburgh, killing 20.

Smoke also meant death and disease.

Now, however, good-paying industrial jobs need not exact untimely death from workers and their families. In fact, it's the opposite. Development of clean renewable energy generators -- the likes of wind turbines, solar cells, biomass -- would create family-supporting industrial jobs in America and would reinforce traditional manufacturing jobs in the U.S., including those in steel mills, solar-cell fabrication plants and wind-turbine factories, such as those built by Gamesa in Pennsylvania.

In addition to new economic growth, the kinds of broad-based, multi-class political alliances that made these changes possible can alter the ways Americans consume energy, strengthen our hand against global warming-causing pollution, weaken the political stranglehold Big Oil and Dirty Coal have on government.

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