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One economic sector still has some hops: Beer. The number of American breweries more than doubled (from 398 to 869) between 2007 and 2012, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released Tuesday. Also during 2012, domestic beer makers shipped $28.3 billion in their foamy product — an increase of more than 30 percent compared to five years earlier. On brewery floors, employee numbers similarly surged, rising to about 26,000 workers from about 22,000 in 2007. Still, like other American workers, the brewers’ overall wages remained relatively flat, rising about 4 percent during that stretch, the Census Bureau reported. The news is even bubblier when the stats include microbreweries — part of the industry not incorporated in the census figures, said Bart Watson, staff economist for the Brewers Association, which promotes American craft beer makers. Brewpubs and larger breweries now number nearly 2,900 compared to about 2,500 in 2012. “In terms of growth, we are seeing similar trends,” Watson said. “This is being driven by the proliferation of small and independent craft breweries."
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--- Bill Briggs