The US remained the world’s biggest manufacturing nation by output last year, but is poised to relinquish this slot in 2011 to China – thus ending a 110-year run as the number one country in factory production.
The figures are revealed in a league table being published on Monday by IHS Global Insight, a US-based economics consultancy.
Last year, the US created 19.9 per cent of world manufacturing output, compared with 18.6 per cent for China, with the US staying ahead despite a steep fall in factory production due to the global recession.
That the US is still top comes as a surprise, since in 2008 – before the slump of the past two years took hold – IHS predicted it would lose pole position in 2009.
However, a relatively resilient US performance kept China in second place, says IHS, which predicts that faster growth in China will deny the US the top spot next year.
The US became the world’s biggest manufacturer in the late 1890s, edging the then-incumbent – Britain – into the number two position.
Hal Sirkin, head of the global operations practice at Chicago-based Boston Consulting Group, said the US should not despair too much at the likelihood that it would lose the global crown in manufacturing to China.
“If you have a country with four times the population of the US and a tenth of the wages, it is fairly obvious they will pull ahead at some time in productive capabilities,“ he said.
Last year, according to IHS, goods output by the US totalled $1,717bn, ahead of China at $1,608bn.
However in 2011, on the basis of IHS’s estimates, China’s factory output will come to $1,870bn, a fraction ahead of the projected US figure for the year.