Manufacturing Day is a calendar highlight, of course, an opportunity to celebrate the industry, the people who make it great, and the potential renaissance we all hope has already started.
But how bright is the future? Pretty dim, actually, if some recent statistics carry any weight.
While the economy added 156,000 more jobs in September, manufacturing dropped another 13,000 jobs during the month — according to an announcement from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday morning that dulled some of the Manufacturing Day buzz. Coupled with the Wednesday announcement that that manufacturing trade deficit had hit a record $80 billion, just about assuring an annual trade deficit with a quarter remaining, the news this week has been melancholy at best.
“It’s wonderful to celebrate manufacturing’s importance,” said Alan Tonelson, who monitors the industry and publishes the independent RealityChek blog. “But we shouldn’t overlook the very serious problems it’s experiencing now, and that it’s been suffering for many years.”
Because of recent sentiment and activity, industry analysts had hoped the manufacturing jobs numbers would at least stabilize, but the numbers were a stiff blow Friday morning. The industry has now shed jobs for two straight months thanks to a drop of 16,000 in August, and is down 58,000 jobs this year.
The jobs drop, the record trade deficit, and the product recession that is now more than two years old all point to the fact, Tonelson said, that “manufacturing never really recovered from the recession.”
With the next BLS report scheduled to be released just days before the presidential election, manufacturers are expected to continue to stress pro-growth policies that will enable quicker economic growth and enhance global competitiveness, according to Chad Moutray, chief economist for the National Association of Manufacturers.
“We were encouraged by the rebound in demand and production seen in Monday’s ISM figures, and there is some expectation that activity will pick up in the coming months,” Moutray said. “Yet these figures suggest a degree of nervousness in the economic outlook, with job growth in manufacturing continuing to lag behind.”
Both Tonelson and Moutray noted the continued wage increase for manufacturing employees — Tonelson called it “the only bright spot on the manufacturing horizon” — up 0.5% this month and 3.2% this year to $1,064.71 per week and outpacing the private sector, up 0.2% and 2.6% during the same stretches. Weekly hours rose slightly from 34.3 to 34.4.
The jobless rate for the economy overall bumped up to 5% in September as the labor participation rate hit a six-month high. The underemployment rate held at 9.7%.