News on the domestic manufacturing front has been largely positive the past couple of weeks. I was impressed by a couple of articles (one by Politico, the other by the Washington Post) that tried to get past the partisan divides that have come to define Washington and focus on why manufacturing is so critical. And why is it so critical? Simple: It pays much better than comparable jobs in other sectors. Recent reports from the Commerce Department confirmed that this “wage premium” is still a real effect.
And manufacturing is far from dead in the United States—500,000 manufacturing jobs have been added here since the end of 2009, when we were deep into the economic calamity. Even February’s numbers showed positive signs—14,000 jobs were added to the manufacturing sector, said The Daily Caller, pushing the unemployment rate lower, from 7.9% to 7.7%.
The Wall Street Journal also reported on data from the Institute for Supply Management; its measure of factory activity grew in February—for the third month—to 54.2. Anything above 50 means that the sector is growing. And exports hit a nine month high.
The manufacturing output in Great Britain has decreased by 1.5% in January compared to December, said GlobalPost. This struck hard against those who are hoping that the country can stay out of a new recession. More broadly, there was an interesting report about Caterpillar pulling out of Europe, probably in response to the continuing debt crisis there. The company recently announced it was shedding 1,400 jobs in Belgium. This is following in the footsteps of Ford, GM, Dow Chemical and ArcelorMittal, all of which have been cutting manufacturing jobs on the continent.