Most manufacturing industries are still flat on their back

This is a long post, but not epic.

A new story from the Associated Press argues that there’s been a big productivity surge in the U.S., post-financial crisis. Paul Wiseman writes: (my emphasis added)

The reason is U.S. workers have become so productive that it’s harder for anyone without a job to get one.

Companies are producing and profiting more than when the recession began, despite fewer workers. They’re hiring again, but not fast enough to replace most of the 7.5 million jobs lost since the recession began.

Measured in growth, the American economy has outperformed those of Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan — every Group of 7 developed nation except Canada,

According to the conventional wisdom, as summarized by Wiseman, the U.S. has sailed through the crisis in better shape than our industrialized rivals.  The conventional wisdom also says to the degree that we have a jobs problem, it’s because we are so good at boosting output and productivity.  

Of course, this directly contradicts my recent post, where I argued that the apparent productivity gain  from 2007-2009 was to  a large extent the result of mismeasurement.

But now let me make a different point. Wiseman argues that companies are producing more than when the recession began.  

I don’t think he’s right for most of manufacturing.

I’m going to show a series of charts for various manufacturing industries. These charts show shipments, adjusted for prices changes–‘real’ shipments.  Real shipments are a good measure of  what actually comes out of the factory.  

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