Strategy & Leadership

Article | The manufacturing sector post-pandemic: Rethinking US workplace priorities to pursue short and long-term success

November 17, 2021


Article | The manufacturing sector post-pandemic: Rethinking US workplace priorities to pursue short and long-term success

November 17, 2021

Yuxin Lin

Senior Manager, Policy & Insights

Yuxin is a senior manager on the Policy & Insights team. She leads research and analysis projects across a range of sectors including financial services, technology and NGOs. Based in Washington DC, Yuxin specializes in international trade and finance, demographics and workforce, emerging markets, and megatrends.

Prior to joining the Economist Group, Yuxin was vice president at FP Analytics of Foreign Policy, where she consulted with governments, international institutions and companies on trade, energy and social policies and investment strategies.

Yuxin holds an MBA from McDonough School of Business of Georgetown University and a BA in Management from University of International Business and Economics.

The US manufacturing sector was dramatically impacted by the pandemic last year.

When covid-19 lockdowns became widespread in March 2020, manufacturing output dropped sharply. But with so many Americans at home, demand for many goods spiked, straining supply chains already weakened by labour shortages. Consumers found themselves staring at empty store shelves or waiting weeks for online orders to be delivered.

To understand the current state of the manufacturing sector, Economist Impact 1,139 manufacturing workers and 182 executives in the sector around the US across various functional roles, as part of the Recovery, Resilience and the Road Ahead programme sponsored by Prudential. The survey assessed worker concerns, remote work experiences, as well as organisations’ digital maturity, technology investments, skills and capabilities, and outlooks on the future. What emerges from responses is a view of employers having largely maintained a good relationship with workers. Both management and workers are in agreement about the importance of worker safety. And automation and technology talent will continue to be a major driver of business value.

Key Findings

  1. The majority of workers hold a positive attitude toward their company and job, although significant disparities exist among workers.
  2. Most organisations have prioritised strengthened worker safety protections—but about a third of manufacturing workers have been negatively impacted by covid-19.
  3. Increasing automation and technology talent continues to be a priority for driving business value, and a large majority of managers believe automation is not a threat to workers.
  4. The pandemic amplified key trends already in motion before 2020: namely, the need for automation and a talent gap. In light of the difficulties to find the right talent, these trends underscore the importance of retaining current talent.


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