Employment in manufacturing has fallen from just under 15 million in 2003 to just under 12 million today. Peak employment was in 1979 at 19.5 million.
Here’s a congressional study on U.S. manufacturing. No surprise, we’re still the biggest manufacturing country in the world. Although, U.S. share of world manufacturing has been falling.
The trade statistics don’t break down the types of merchandise traded in the balance of payments, i.e., whether manufacturing, mining, agriculture, and so on. The basic categories are merchandise and services.
The shift away from manufacturing toward other sectors is likely a natural result of adaptation to our changing comparative advantage in the world. China has developed a large manufacturing sector because its more efficient to have them do this instead of us and its more efficient for us to do other things. People in both places gain. Employment in manufacturing would fall and its contribution to our overall production would shrink, but standards of living rise.
America went through a similar shift concerning agriculture last century. But hardly anyone today thinks it’s a bad thing for American society that only 2 percent of our workforce is in agriculture instead of 20 percent or 40 percent.