I am honored to be the co-founder and Co-Chair of the Senate Manufacturing Caucus, which focuses on policies that will strengthen the critical manufacturing sector of our economy. For generations, our manufacturing sector has been the backbone of the American economy. Manufacturing jobs built our great Middle Class and allowed millions of families to live the American Dream and create a better life for their children. It was manufacturing jobs that created an economy in which people who worked hard could own a home and pay to send their children to school. And as they grew older, manufacturing jobs enabled them to retire with a pension that would allow them to spend the rest of their days in relative comfort and security.
Unfortunately, we've seen a significant erosion of our manufacturing base. We've lost over 3 million manufacturing jobs over the last seven years. Today there are 14.3 million Americans employed in the manufacturing sector, the lowest level of manufacturing employment since World War II.
We need to take steps to improve our manufacturing base and utilize our nation's strategic advantages in innovation, productivity and capital investment to renew our manufacturing sector's strength.
I have also been a strong supporter of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program. In New York there are over 26,000 small and midsize manufacturers, and this critical program has helped thousands of these businesses adopt and implement new technologies and productivity strategies that have increased sales and enabled the retention and hiring of thousands of workers. The MEP program provides the assistance our manufacturers need to remain competitive, and I will continue to remain a strong advocate for this program in the Senate.