Ignore the Hype: We Aren’t Even Close to Declaring a Manufacturing Victory

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

You might have seen a new report released this week from the U.S. National Economic Council that put forth the idea that American manufacturing is more competitive than it has been in decades. That report found that “manufacturing output has increased 30 percent since the end of the recession,” and said there’s been an increase of 646,000 manufacturing jobs since 2010.

That all sounds great — but when you dig a little deeper, you discover a very different picture.

As Richard McCormack, editor and publisher of Manufacturing and Technology News, explains in the Christian Science Monitor:

We’ve suffered such a colossal loss of manufacturing jobs that we couldn’t really lose many more. We hit our nadir and we couldn’t really go down more than we had. So we’re really bouncing off the bottom.

The Monitor lays out some revealing statistics that further showcase that while things might be on the upswing, there’s a long way to climb to get back to where we once were just a decade ago:

In 2000, there were more than 17 million manufacturing jobs in this country, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number dropped to just 14 million by 2004 and plunged even further following the 2008 financial crisis. By 2010, there were just 11.5 million manufacturing jobs.

That’s not all, folks. President Obama still has a long way to go to meet his own goal of creating 1 million manufacturing jobs by the end of his second term. As our #AAMeter notes, just 134,000 jobs have been created since Obama began his term, meaning an average of at least 28,666 jobs must be created each month to meet the goal. The president will need to pick up the pace if he wants to make his goal — just 10,000 manufacturing jobs were created in May.

Here at the Alliance for American Manufacturing, we are not entirely pessimistic. As we noted after the White House Maker Faire on Wednesday, there’s a lot the administration can do to encourage manufacturing job growth, including:

  • Getting serious about the deficit. The overall U.S. international goods and services trade deficit rose to $47.2 billion in April; the goods deficit with China soared to $27.3 billion. The deficit remains the biggest impediment to a true manufacturing recovery, reflecting the millions of good factory jobs that shifted overseas (and the jobs that continued to be threatened).
  • Implementing a Comprehensive National Manufacturing Strategy. Enacting and enforcing strong trade laws, combating currency manipulation, investing in infrastructure, and supporting Buy America provisions are just a few of the things that can be done to encourage manufacturing job growth.