For a while now, John Merline at Investors Business Daily has been putting out always-interesting charts and data.

His latest is over there on the right. Despite claims by politicians ranging from Barack Obama to Rick Santorum that U.S. manufacturing is dead and buried, Merline shows that sector is alive and kicking.

"By all relevant measures of economic performance — growth in profits, output gains, employment growth, and unemployment rates — American manufacturing remains the shining star of the U.S. economy," said Mark Perry, an economist at the University of Michigan and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, who closely tracks this industry.

Others have noted that, even without Obama's tax code inducements, manufacturers are starting to bring some jobs back from overseas, known as "on-shoring."

And while Santorum is right that fewer people work in manufacturing — the industry lost more than 7 million jobs since its peak in 1979 — and the industry accounts for less of the nation's GDP than it once did (less than 13% today compared with nearly 25% in 1970) — these aren't necessarily bad indicators.

More here.

Indeed, for those of us who have worked in factories, it most certainly is not a bad thing that fewer of us work in such places. A lot of industrial work is necessary and not awful, but getting off an assembly line is rarely a bad thing. Even in terms of wages. As this Cafe Hayek post from a couple of years back notes, service-sector jobs, which typically have easier conditions, also typically pay better.

It's always the right time to listen to Bob Dylan's incredibly non-prescient "Union Sundown" which proclaimed circa 1983,

Well, you know, lots of people complainin' that there is no work.
I say, "Why you say that for
When nothin' you got is U.S.-made?"

 (click to listen)

If the Maestro was as wrong about American manufacturing as he was about the spelling of John Wesley Hardin, he was dead-on in another fevered premonition from "Union Sundown":

They used to grow food in Kansas
Now they want to grow it on the moon and eat it raw.
I can see the day coming when even your home garden
Is gonna be against the law.

Reason's Nanny of the Month for September 2010 covered the travails of a DeKalb, Georgia man who got busted for growing...vegetables.