Is a Manufacturing Rebound Actually Happening?

You hear a fair amount these days, including in the State of the Union, about the comeback of American manufacturing jobs. But look at this chart of manufacturing employment in the United States, and it’s not clear that it’s happening.

Certainly the trend is different from what we saw in the last recession, where jobs disappeared and never returned. But prior to 2001, the pattern had been for manufacturing to fluctuate cyclically—big layoffs during recessions followed by rapid rehiring. The current cycle has us recovering from the trough level of manufacturing employment, but still nowhere near where we were before the downturn began.