Manufacturing Gained 225,000 Jobs in May, But It’s a Long Road to Recovery

By Cathalijne Adams
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As relief funds dry up, infrastructure investment could stimulate the next stage of recovery.

America braced for another devastating jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) this Friday, with predictions of 20% unemployment looming. Instead, we got “INCREDIBLE,” “AMAZING,” “stupendous” gains. Yeah, not quite…

May did see an increase of 225,000 factory jobs, according to the report. However, manufacturing is still far from recovering the 1.3 million jobs that were lost in April. Furthermore, the tremendous public health pressures that caused the loss of many of these jobs continue to complicate recovery.

Although President Trump — and Wall Street — is eager to turn away from the turmoil embroiling the nation and celebrate America’s recovery, COVID-19 is far from neutralized, and the pandemic continues to cause instability throughout the economy.

Earlier this week, the Commerce Department reported that the U.S. trade deficit swelled to $49.4 billion in April, from $42.3 billion in March. According to the report, exports plummeted by 20.5%, led by significant declines in the export of aircrafts and cars.

Since April, America has seen manufacturers gradually reopen factories, but efforts to do so are still in flux as manufacturers contend with a radically different market and supply chain.  

“Manufacturing has fewer barriers to return to work — ease of social distancing, strong safety protocols already in place, many firms exempted from state shutdown orders — so the major obstacles now are weak demand, plunging exports, and the continuing public health crisis,” said Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul. “There is an urgent need for action on all three fronts.”

As economists examine the unexpected uptick of jobs in the BLS report for May, they’re crediting the Paycheck Protection Program with supporting small businesses just in time to spark employment increases in May. But, as most of the relief money allotted by the government is scheduled to conclude by the end of July, it’s time to get serious about long-term plans to stimulate job growth, or we risk slipping back while so many of America’s workers are still suffering… particularly many of the workers who have suffered the most.

Millions of unemployed Americans are depending on lawmakers to continue to fight for them.

One powerful means of triggering mass hiring lies in legislation like the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act that was introduced earlier this week. The INVEST in America Act would funnel nearly $500 billion over five years with Buy America provisions that would ensure taxpayer funds are reinvested into local communities.

Though Friday's employment news suggests a positive turn for manufacturing, the pandemic’s volatility and the economy’s fragility leaves little room for error.

The roadmap to a lasting economic recovery must include robust infrastructure investment.