Manufacturing won’t bring workers to the Midwest

Donald Trump announces in July 2017 the first U.S. assembly plant for electronics giant Foxconn.
Donald Trump announces in July 2017 the first U.S. assembly plant for electronics giant Foxconn.
Image: AP Photo/Alex Brandon
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

When Foxconn announced last month that it would build a factory in Wisconsin, the state’s governor hopefully renamed the county where it would be located—Paul Ryan’s district—“Wisconn Valley.”

“We believe this will have a transformational effect on Wisconsin just as Silicon Valley transformed the San Francisco Bay area,” he told the Washington Post.

Trump took the idea that Foxconn’s factory would revitalize the region further when he argued to The Wall Street Journal that in the future, people in New York and other states would need to move to places like Wisconsin, Iowa, and Colorado that have added new manufacturing plants. “You’re going to need people to work in these massive plants,” he told the Journal. “…I’m going to start explaining to people: When you have an area that just isn’t working like upper New York state, where people are getting very badly hurt, and then you’ll have another area 500 miles away where you can’t get people, I’m going to explain, you can leave. It’s OK. Don’t worry about your house.”

A look at US Census data, however, suggests that Wisconsin shouldn’t expect an influx of New Yorkers.

People in the United States, in general, are not moving as much as they used to. Between 2015 and 2016, the percentage of Americans who moved homes hit an all-time low. Only 11.2% of Americans moved, down from 20% in 1984 and 20% in 1947, the first year that the Census included this data. Factors in this decrease may include the economic downturn triggered by the 2008 financial crisis that put many people underwater in their homes, tighter house lending standards, and high student debt.

When they do move, Americans with manufacturing jobs are slightly more likely than those with other types of jobs to cite work as a reason. But fewer move between states than other types of workers. From 2010 to 2014, only 1.2% of people in the US who worked in manufacturing had moved between states in the past year. For all other jobs, that number is 1.5%.

In US counties where manufacturing is growing, the people who have moved there tend to be from other counties in the same state, and to a lesser extent, other states in that region. The same is true of people who move for non-manufacturing jobs: They tend to move from counties in the same state or from states in the same region.