Despite rosy manufacturing report, are more of us making it in America?

Posted by mmcmullan on 09/04/2013

Yesterday, the Institute of Supply Management (ISM) released its widely read monthly manufacturing outlook. And for American producers, the outlook heading into the last quarter is good:

American producers are leading a global manufacturing recovery that stretches from China to Europe as their economies improve. Resilient U.S. demand for motor vehicles is prompting companies such as Ford Motor Co. (F) to expand, while further strides in construction are bolstering orders for building materials, appliances and furniture.

Ford’s decision to invest in whole new production lines in Michigan is an encouraging example, among others, of the boom times that could be just around the bend for for the American manufacturing sector. But lets be cautious with our optimism. One of the most important measures of manufacturing’s health – employment within the sector – is coming out in only two days.

That’s when the Bureau of Labor Statistics issues its monthly jobs report and the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) updates the ol’ #AAMeter. And after seven months of blasé numbers, the #AAMeter could use a solid nudge in the right direction; We’re only at 24,000 new American manufacturing jobs this year, despite the administration’s campaign pledge to create 1 million of them by the end of President Obama’s second term.

We know these are the middle-class jobs that America has lost en masse since we swapped them for unbelievably cheap Chinese-made goods in 2000, when Washington normalized trade relations with Beijing.

As of this morning, we know that our national goods trade deficit isn’t improving – it hit $30.1 billion with China alone in August, a new record and a portentous forecast for new hires in the sector.

That’s a huge bummer, because a recent Department of Commerce study shows new hires in the manufacturing sector earn significantly more than new hires in other industries.

And in an economy that’s producing plenty of part-time, uh, opportunities, we know we’re not creating enough of the right kind of work for millions of still-unemployed Americans.

Which is all to say: The new from ISM is all well and good, but let’s hold the applause for manufacturing until Friday, when we get a real understanding of which way the wind in the sector is blowing. Are we Making It in America again?

Photo by Flickr user Nicole Yeary, used following Creative Commons guidelines.

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