The number of factories in the United States is starting to grow after more than a decade of decline. After reaching an all-time low in 2013 since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started counting the number of factories in 2001, the number of manufacturing facilities started to increase in the first half of 2014, reaching 338,304 factories, up 1.4 percent from the low reached in 2013 of 333,565.
The number of factories in the United States declined by 59,248 from 2001 (when there were 397,552 factories) to 2014, a 17.5 percent drop. Since reaching a nadir in 2012, there has been little growth in the number of very large factories that employ more than 1,000 workers, according to “establishment data” for the manufacturing sector gathered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages division.
There were only 911 large manufacturing plants in the United States in 2014, up by one from 2013 and down by two in 2012 when there were 913. The number of large factories is down by 38 percent since 2001, a drop of 568, from 1,479 to 911. Factories with between 500 and 999 employees have been growing modestly since bottoming out in 2010 at 1,800. In 2014, there were 2,025 factories of that size in the United States, up 2.8 percent from 1,967 in 2013 and 1,913 in 2012. Since 2001, the number of factories with between 500 and 999 employees has fallen from 3,198 to 2,025, a decline of 37 percent (1,173 lost factories).
Factories with between 100 and 249 employees have also been growing at a modest rate since reaching a nadir in 2010, when there were 15,696 such factories. In 2014, that number had increased by 1,149 to 16,845, an increase of 7 percent. From 2013 to 2014, the number of plants of this size increased by 220, or 1.3 percent. Since 2001, when there were 22,490 plants with between 100 and 249 workers, the total number is down by 33.5 percent.
The next category of plants — with between 50 and 99 employees — has grown from a low of 21,540 in 2010 to 22,327 in 2014, a growth of 787 factories (3.5 percent growth). Since 2001, when there were 28,633 factories of this size, the decline has been 6,306 factories, or 22 percent. Factories with between 20 and 49 employees rose to 47,380 in 2014, up from 46,946 in 2013 and from a low of 46,313 in 2011. The number is still down 19 percent from a high of 58,942 in 2001.
The number of factories with between five and nine employees continues to decline. In 2014, there were 55,380 factories of this size, the lowest level since 2001, and down from 55,617 in 2013. The number of factories of this size has fallen every year since 2001, save for in 2007 when there was no change, and is down by 12,130 or 18 percent since 2001. The number of micro-factories, with fewer than five employees, grew by 1.7 percent between 2003 and 2014 — from 135,133 in 2013 (the lowest level since 2001), to 137,475 (or a gain in the year of 2,342 plants). Since 2001, the country has lost 11,207 of plants employing less than five people, down 7.5 percent.