Changes in the Demand for Skilled Labor within U.S. Manufacturing: Evidence from the Annual Survey of Manufactures

This paper investigates the shift in demand away from unskilled and toward skilled labor in U.S. manufacturing over the 1980s. Production labor-saving technological change is the chief explanation for this shift. That conclusion is based on three facts: (1) the shift is due mostly to increased use of skilled workers within the 450 industries in U.S. manufacturing rather than to a reallocation of employment between industries, as would be implied by a shift in product demand due to trade or to a defense buildup; (2) trade- and defense-demand are associated with only small employment reallocation effects; (3) increased use of nonproduction workers is strongly correlated with investment in computers and in R&D.