A steelworker at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor in East Chicago.  Joseph S. Pete
A steelworker at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor in East Chicago. Joseph S. Pete
The United States gained 349,000 manufacturing jobs last year as the industry continues to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic.

The manufacturing sector, one of the largest employers in the Region and a key pillar in the Northwest Indiana economy, added 26,000 jobs in December, according to newly released data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"Despite the myriad of challenges manufacturing has faced, factory employment made a nice gain in December and an impressive recovery in 2021," Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul said. "I am confident the United States will continue to gain factory jobs this year, so long as infrastructure is robustly implemented and reshoring trends continue. There's a lot that policymakers can do to encourage this growth, including investing in America's own competitiveness. At the same time, we need to hold China and other countries accountable on unfair trade practices."

Manufacturing reached a record high of 19.6 million jobs in the United States in 1979.

That number has since fallen to around 12.5 million as a result of automation, greater efficiency, off-shoring and other trends. The decline has slowed but generally been ongoing over time. Factory jobs in the United States have fallen from 12.8 million in 2019.

"With the right policies in place, the U.S. can make a full factory employment recovery from the pandemic and continue to add manufacturing jobs in 2022," Paul said.

In Northwest Indiana, the manufacturing sector remains one of the biggest sources of employment. The industry lost 1,800 jobs when the coronavirus pandemic first hit in 2020 but regained 800 of those jobs last year, Indiana University Northwest Associate Professor of Economics Micah Pollak said.
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