THE death of manufacturing in Australia has been vastly exaggerated, with new figures showing a jump in the number of Australians making products - and Victoria leading the way.
Despite a string of high-profile job losses over the past six months, Victorian manufacturing has emerged as the nation's strongest, with 10,000 full-time jobs created in the past year.
Quarterly labour figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show almost 1 million Australians still working in manufacturing.
Around the nation, 962,000 people were counted by the ABS as working in manufacturing - up 1 per cent in the past three months. Manufacturing now accounts for just over 8 per cent of the workforce.
The short-term good news for Australian manufacturing, however, is in contrast to the grimmer long-term picture: in 1984, manufacturing accounted for 1.1 million jobs, meaning more than one in 10 jobs have been eliminated in the sector over the past three decades.
Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten said yesterday the recent jump in manufacturing jobs, although small, signalled a resilience in the sector. ''Australia is still a country that makes stuff despite all the gloom and doom about the high dollar,'' he said.
Mr Shorten said high-tech manufacturing, food manufacturing, textile and clothing, and recycling all had terrific stories to tell about Australian companies making things.
He said these manufacturing success stories mostly involved firms being prepared to invest significantly in research and design.
Victorian Manufacturing Minister Richard Dalla-Riva - who will be on a state government trade mission to China this week, along with scores of local manufacturers - said there had been a tendency in public debate to portray as inevitable the predictions about the demise of manufacturing in the state.
But there were now 308,200 Victorians in manufacturing jobs compared with 295,100 at the same time last year, he said. Full-time jobs have gone from 248,000 to 258,000.
However, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union pointed to the recent lay-offs in Victoria at Ford, Qantas, UGL Rail in Ballarat and car parts manufacturer CMI as evidence that serious problems were confronting the state's manufacturing sector.
The union's assistant state secretary, Leigh Diehm, said the Baillieu government's lack of infrastructure investment was resulting in job losses in industries that relied on public sector spending.
''For them to be claiming credit for anything in manufacturing is frankly breathtaking,'' Mr Diehm said.