The charts above are based on new data from the United Nations on GDP and its components for more than 200 countries, updated through 2011.
1. The top chart compares the annual manufacturing output from 1970 to 2011 (measured in current US dollars) for the five countries that produced the most manufacturing output last year: China, US, Japan, Germany, and Italy. As I reported earlier, China is now officially the world’s largest manufacturer, with output in 2011 ($2.34 trillion) that was 23% higher than the $1.9 trillion of factory output in the U.S.
2. The U.S. is still a world leader in manufacturing and America’s factory output continues to increase, despite the rise of China to the world’s No. 1 manufacturer. The bottom chart below puts the enormous size of the U.S. manufacturing sector into perspective, by comparing America’s manufacturing output in 2001 ($1.904 trillion) to the combined manufacturing output of Germany, Italy, Korea, Brazil and the Russian Federation, which are the countries that are ranked No. 4 through No. 8 in 2011 for manufacturing output.
3. It’s also important to remember that China’s manufacturing workforce is estimated to be around 100 million and could be as high as 110 million, compared to America’s manufacturing employment of less than 12 million. Therefore,the U.S. is producing slightly less manufacturing output than China, but U.S. worker productivity is so high compared to China, that China needs almost ten factory workers for every one American worker to produce roughly the same amount of output.