U.S. manufacturers continue to blame rising benefit costs, escalating energy prices and misaligned currency exchange rates for the squeeze on their profits. And a study jointly released October 11 by the Manufacturing Institute, an arm of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), and the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI, a business and public policy research group, shows profits in five industries were 67% lower between 2000 and 2003 than presumably they would otherwise have been because of what the NAM and the alliance term "adverse structural costs."
However, the study's data show the biggest single squeeze on profits during that period among makers of fabricated metal products, machinery, electrical equipment and appliances, motor vehicles and chemicals was the business-cycle downturn. It accounted for 38.2% of lowered profit performance. Import prices and exchange rates accounted for 25.5%; benefit costs 22.8%; materials costs 9.2%; and energy costs 4.3%.