Contrary to public perception, U.S. manufacturing and logistics industries experienced dramatic growth over the past generation, according to a new report from Ball State Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER), Muncie, Ind., and Conexus Indiana, Indianapolis, Ind.

U.S. manufacturing production grew 11% since the bust (2000-03) and the ensuing economic turbulence of the 2001 and 2007-09 recessions, according to “Manufacturing and Logistics: A Generation of Volatility & Growth.”

“According to folklore, this has been a terrible generation for manufacturing and those who move goods,” says Michael Hicks, CBER director and professor of economics and business research. “That isn’t really what the data says. Indeed, 2015 was a record manufacturing production year in inflation-adjusted dollars. While 2016 fell just short with some weakness in the first and second quarter, 2017 looks to be a new record year.”

More goods produced by fewer workers

“Most of the confusion about manufacturing and logistics is due to declining employment over the past generation,” Hicks says. “The fact is, manufacturing firms have become very lean, and productivity growth means more goods produced with fewer workers.”

Three factors contribute to a decline in employment—the workforce is better educated and trained, increasing productivity, mechanization has displaced some workers and improved processes, such Lean Six Sigma and other management methods, have increased manufacturing production, according to the study’s authors.

“Trade and productivity growth shifts job opportunities to other places and other sectors even as employment grows,” Hicks says. “We are at peak U.S. employment right now.”

The “2017 Manufacturing and Logistics Report Card for Indiana, 2017 Manufacturing andLogistics Report Card for the United States and Manufacturing and Logistics: A Generation of Volatility & Growth” was written by Hicks and Srikant Devaraj, CBER’s research assistant professor.