The stock of U.S. manufacturing plants is the net result of a constant flow of closings and openings, Daniel J. Meckstroth, Ph.D writes in a recently released report for The Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI). What may be surprising to some observers is that the rate of plant closings has a declining trend over the last 13 years. Unfortunately, the rate of plant openings has consistently fallen even more. On average over the last 13 years, 3.5% of all plants closed each quarter and 2.9% of all plants opened. The most recent data for the first quarter of 2012 show that approximately 10,000 plants closed (3.3% of plants) and 8,000 plants opened (2.6% of plants). U.S. manufacturing plants fell from 375,000 in number in 1998 to 304,000 in the first quarter of 2012.
The number of manufacturing jobs has also been damaged by the flow of factories opening and closing. Total manufacturing jobs started growing again in the first quarter of 2010; all of this growth, however, came from existing plants. Between job gains from opening plants and losses from closing plants, there was a cumulative loss of 108,000 jobs from the first quarter of 2010 to the first quarter of 2012. Further, there has not been a net gain in jobs in any quarter since early 1998.