The National Association of Manufacturers' Labor Day report indicates that the manufacturing sector has improved somehwat over the past few months. I guess in medical terms, that means the patient has been upgraded from DOA to critical. Anyways, NAM projects a gradual upturn in manufacturing production into 2010, with the more significant growth coming a few years later, namely between 2011-2014 period. If you're feeling really optimistic, you can take heart in the projection that by 2014, according to NAM, the manufacturing sector will regain more than 40% of the jobs lost during the current downturn. Whether or not those currently unemployed will make up 40% of their lost income during their layoffs remains to be seen.
By the way, that's the good news from the NAM report. There's plenty more bad news. In the words of John Engler, NAM's president, "There are grounds for optimism, but there is even greater reason for caution. A recovery could stall out or even shift into reverse if Congress and the Administration enact policies that increase the burden on businesses and make us less competitive in the global economy. This Labor Day, NAM welcomes the signs of returning growth and jobs and calls on Congress and the Administration to reject the policies that would stop the nation's progress toward recovery."
While the NAM report doesn't mention it, I suspect that part of the reason that manufacturing has had even an extremely modest uptick lately has been due to Congress being on a long recess this past month, and that the only industry anybody in Congress or within the Administration seems to be focusing on right now is the health care industry (including the insurance companies, of course). As we've seen frequently in the past, U.S. manufacturing tends to do better when the government just gets out of the way.
In any event, there's a fascinating poll currently underway over on the Material Handling Management website (IndustryWeek's sister publication and my full-time gig) that attempts to identify exactly which legislative/regulatory issues worry you the most. (The early leader out of several choices is the Card Check bill, but the poll just launched so there's plenty of time for you to weigh in if you'd like.)