Continuing Crisis or New Hope for Manufacturing?

There have been numerous reports of late concerning the plight of the manufacturing sector of the U.S. economy.

There have been numerous reports of late concerning the plight of the manufacturing sector of the U.S. economy. Trend watchers have been sounding the alarm for some time, but until recently hadn’t seen much reaction from elected officials.

This past summer’s news reports suggested that some 2.7 million jobs had been lost in the United States during the recession that began early in 2001; of those, 2.4 million jobs were lost from the manufacturing sector. Everyone acknowledges that manufacturing jobs are moving overseas at an unprecedented rate. Does anyone care enough to do anything about it?

It appears that some elected officials may be realizing that, as we approach a national election year, the electorate cares.

On September 1, President Bush announced that he had directed the Secretary of Commerce to establish an Assistant Secretary to address the needs of U.S. manufacturers. Within a week, presidential hopefuls from the Democratic Party had debated the issue of the plight of manufacturers, especially with regard to job losses.

The National Association of Manufacturers and the Council of Manufacturing Associations commissioned a study that yielded the report: Securing Our Future: The Case for a Strong Manufacturing Base. The report paints a disturbing picture of for the future of the U.S. manufacturing industry.

The loss of manufacturing jobs over the past few years is seen not as a simple effect of a temporary economic recession, but as the permanent loss of jobs resulting from the migration of manufacturing activities.

The Popkin Report suggests that manufacturing—more than any other economic sector—contributes to “prosperity, tangible wealth and [increased] standards of living.” Manufacturing is credited with having been the principal driver of economic growth, suggesting that a society’s investment in it generates a greater positive influence over the general economy than does its investment in any other economic activity.

Other reports reveal that manufacturing interests in the United States account for more than one-third of all local and state tax revenues. That fact alone should be sufficient to seize the attention of elected officials who are clearly concerned over the recent erosion of tax revenues.

September’s numbers, while still disappointing, may offer a glimmer of hope. Reportedly, the U.S. manufacturing sector lost another 29,000 jobs that month, marking 38 consecutive months of job losses. However, the September losses were the lowest in more than a year. Some analysts are actually predicting job growth in manufacturing within the next few months.

Product finishers, like all manufacturing interests, would do well to take notice and take action. Much is at stake and it is up to us to rally support for manufacturing.