Manufacturing Workforce in American Midwest: 2019

Charts & Graphs, Lab Reports, Maps


American Midwest, also known as the “Heartland” or “Middle America”, is a geographic label used to describe states that sit in the northern central part of the United States. As one of the four major census regions, the U.S. Census Bureau classified it as the following 12 states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin (America Counts Staff, 2021). In the progress of American economic and cultural development, the Midwest strikes an interesting balance: possessing vast tracts of fertile lands, this region is the agricultural and manufacturing backbone of American economic growth; on the other hand, its culture is often colored by a reserve of old American values and political conservatism (Britannica, 2021). 

This report seeks to furnish insight on the robustness of the pre-pandemic manufacturing industry in the Midwest, by answering a central question: what was the manufacturing workforce distribution like in the Midwest in 2019 compared to other census regions?  


Dataset: Industry by Occupation for Employed Civilian Population 16 Years and Over – ACS 5-Year Estimates (2016-2019) 

Tools: Social Explorer, Microsoft Excel, DataWrapper

The dataset comes from the American Community Survey’s 5-Year Estimates (2016-2019) on civilian occupation industries and was retrieved via Social Explorer. The data was filtered and summarized using Microsoft Excel and then visualized with DataWrapper. 


  1. Data Retrieval & Exploratory Visualization (Social Explorer)

Two exploratory visualizations of the data was created: one of the midwestern region, the other of the entire United States. Note that each color in this initial map represents the percentage of manufacturing work force against the entire workforce of that state. The data has little variability – the majority of the data lies between 7.05% and 12.68% – so a quantile method was chosen to determine color cut points. 

Midwestern Manufacturing Workforce Distribution
Midwestern Manufacturing Workforce Distribution as compared to the entire United States.

Then, the retail workforce data for all the states was exported; the inclusion of states other than those in the midwestern region serves as a statistical and visual reference to which the midwestern region can be compared.

  1. Data Analysis (Microsoft Excel) 

The resulting data was then imported to Microsoft Excel and filtered down to only those related to the manufacturing industry. The date was subsequently cleaned, formatted to percentages, and grouped by their respective census regions: northeast, midwest, south, and west. 

  1. Data Visualization (Datawrapper)

The grouped data was then imported into Datawrapper. 

  • A grouped bar chart was selected as the visualization type, as it was suitable for nested categorical variables as such (eg. state is nested within census region); another bar chart without grouping by census region was also produced;
  • A vertical orientation for the bars was used, since displaying all states horizontally could make the visualization look cluttered;
  • A monochromatic color palette was used, with the midwestern states colored a shade darker. This helps to distinguish them from other census regions;
  • In each census region, the states were ordered from highest to lowest. 
  • Other adjustments included: aligning of the text elements and data points, background shading, general labeling, and so on. 
Manufacturing Workforce Distribution by Census Region
Manufacturing Workforce Distribution by State


It was shown that some Midwestern states (Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Ohio) possessed the highest rate of employees working in the manufacturing sector (15% to 19%) out of all states. The ungrouped bar chart revealed that all Midwestern states (except from North Dakota) live in the top half of the chart, which is mostly split between the Midwest and the South. This is to say, out of all census regions, the Midwest has the highest percentages of manufacturing employees followed by the South.


For the researcher, the difficulty of this project mainly lied in finding meaningful, measurable data. The research direction was initially on the “Art, Entertainment, and Accommodation and Food Industries”, a composite section in the census data. However, due to the fact that it was not clear why the grouping had to be so, the research direction was changed to the manufacturing industry. Another aspect to make note of is that Puerto Rico is listed as part of America on the Social Explorer map, but not as part of any census regions. Thus, in the chart, it was labeled as a separate category under the name “undefined”. 

As this project only made use of data in 2019, a future research direction could be to include data from 2020 on, so that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the manufacturing industry could be measured. Another interesting research direction could be to find the biggest industries in each census region, which would require the initial dataset to include all other industries as well. 


America Counts Staff. (2021, August 25). MIDWEST REGION: 2020 Census. United States Census Bureau.

Britannica. (2021, February 12). Midwest. Encyclopedia Britannica.