Even as the U.S. economy has been slow to boost employment, the number of jobs in the manufacturing sector has grown steadily amid the recovery. That's led some observers to suggest that a Rust Belt Renaissance has firmly taken root in the nation's heartland.
The region's most renowned industry, vehicle manufacturing, has helped lead the revival. Detroit's Big Three automakers -- General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group -- have each added jobs and reopened plants in several Midwestern states, including those hardest hit by the recession: Ohio, Illinois and Michigan. GM, for example, announced last month that it's investing $2 billion in 17 plants, thereby retaining or creating 4,000 jobs in eight states.