'Made in America': What Does America Manufacture?

Former secretary of labor: "Manufacturing jobs are never coming back."

ByABC News
March 4, 2011, 10:33 AM

March 4, 2011 — -- In the first part of ABC News' series, "Made in America," correspondents David Muir and Sharyn Alfonsi removed all foreign made products from the Usry family's Dallas home.

The result: A virtually empty house -- no beds, no tables, no chairs, no couches. The only items that were left were a vase, a candle and some pottery.

Bruce Katz, the director of metropolitan policy at the Brookings Institution said that is not surprising.

"Dealing with these consumption products in American homes might give a distorted perspective of what America makes and our relationship with the rest of the world," Katz said.

America, he added, still makes many things that are sold abroad and domestically -- just not things that are found in the house.

"There is the economy we see in our daily lives and there is the hidden economy, which is out of sight and out of mind; that's the real economy," he said. "It makes the economy we see happen because it's productive, innovative and profit making, and that's what makes America successful."

According to Moody's Analytics, when it comes to manufacturing the U.S. is a global leader in the production of medical equipment, airplanes, movies, pharmaceuticals and agriculture products.

Aside from movies, although Americans may come into contact with these products they are not goods that consumers purchase.

But, Katz said, such advanced, higher-value sectors are driving America's economy and the continued growth and advancement of those fields will sustain it.

In an editorial for Forbes in 2009, Robert Reich, the former secretary of labor and a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, declared that "manufacturing jobs are never coming back."

"As productivity rises, employment falls because fewer people are needed," he wrote. "This goes well beyond the factory floor. America ... used to have lots of elevator operators, telephone operators, bank tellers and service-station attendants. Remember?

"Manufacturing is following the same trend as agriculture," he added. "A century ago, almost 30 percent of adult Americans worked on a farm. Nowadays, fewer than 5 percent do. That doesn't mean the U.S. failed at agriculture. Quite the opposite. American agriculture is a huge success story. America can generate far larger crops than a century ago with far fewer people."