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No, manufacturing jobs won’t revive the economy

In the American imagination, the phrases “the decline of the middle class” and “the loss of factory jobs” are almost inextricably linked. But the promise of a U.S. manufacturing revival has gained strength and currency in policy circles, with many arguing it’s a way to turn the economy around. President Obama has trumpeted the growth of factory jobs in speech after speech. “Think about the America within our reach,” he told his audience at last year’s State of the Union address. “An America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs!”

But, for all the optimism and nostalgia for an America that once was, it’s worth asking whether factory jobs are more likely to help workers rise to the middle class today -- or leave them stranded among the working poor.

Elena Suarez was on her lunch break, taking a walk on the side of the road in the industrial park where she works, and eating a sandwich as she walked, when I stopped her to ask about her job. She’s a machine operator at Resonetics, a manufacturing company in Nashua, New Hampshire that specializes in precision laser micromachining for the medical device industry.

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