The updated data from the United Nations on manufacturing output by country clearly shows the USA remains by far the largest manufacturer in the world. UN Data, in billions of current US dollars:
The USA’s share of the manufacturing output of the countries that manufactured over $200 billion in 2007 (the 12 countries on the top of the chart above) in 1990 was 28%, 1995 28%, 2000 33%, 2005 30%, 2006 28%, 2007 27%. China’s share has grown from 4% in 1990, 1995 7%, 2000 11%, 2005 13%, 2006 15%, 2007 16%.
Total manufacturing output in the USA was up 76% in 2007 from the 1990 level. Japan, the second largest manufacturer in 1990, and third today, has increased output 15% (the lowest of the top 12, France is next lowest at 32%) while China is up an amazing 673% (Korea is next at an increase of 271%).
Since 2000 the USA has the second lowest increase in manufacturing output – up just 19% (Japan is worst with a decrease of 10%), the group of 12 is up 47% over that period. China is up 129%.
Total manufacturing output for some additional countries in 2007: Netherlands $94 billion, Thailand 85, South Africa 46, Singapore 38, Vietnam 15.
This data cannot be seen as perfectly accurate, but it is very interesting. Economic data (especially global data) has plenty of margin for error. Still the data again this year provides a useful view of global manufacturing activity, especially since there is so many misconceptions about the decline in USA manufacturing.
The employment picture is even more challenging to find good data for. However I did find an interesting report from the US Department of Labor recently and posted about it on the Curious Cat Investing and Economics blog: Global Manufacturing Employment and Productivity Data – 1979 to 2007. Output and productivity continue to increase basically everywhere, the difference is not in who is increasing output and who is decreasing but who is increasing more than others and who is increasing productivity faster than others. And manufacturing employment continues to decline pretty much everywhere (though in 2007 there were minor increases in a number of countries).