Americans Recognize the Importance of Manufacturing
In its second annual Labor Day Survey, Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute found that Americans still see the manufacturing industry as vital to the nation’s economic health despite the set backs it has faced over the years.
The study found that 78 percent of respondents believe that manufacturing is very important to the nation’s economic prosperity. Seventy-six percent believe that manufacturing is essential to maintaining a high standard of living in America.
“Clearly, the public believes in the importance of manufacturing and the talent of the American worker,” said Craig Giffi, vice chairman and Deloitte’s consumer & industrial products industry leader in the United States. “These findings fly in the face of the commonly held sentiment that Americans no longer have faith in manufacturing and that the workforce has lost its ability to compete with other parts of the world when it comes to making things. In point of fact, the public has plenty of faith in the American worker, as well as our technology and research capabilities.”
The study also found that the majority of Americans believe that manufacturing is vital to national security interest – 65 percent – and that manufacturing should be made a national priority – 68 percent.
A national manufacturing strategy appears to be a very popular policy among the American people. Seventy-five percent of respondents said that the U.S. needs to take a more strategic approach to developing the country’s manufacturing base.
That would seem to give congress the impetus to pass Rep. Dan Lipinski’s National Manufacturing Strategy Act of 2010. The bill would create a manufacturing strategies board that would thoroughly analyze the nation’s industrial base, develop short and long-term goals for the manufacturing sector to meet and provide the president with recommendations on how to achieve those goals on a national level.
The study also determined that the majority of Americans – 73 percent – believe that the government should be investing more into the manufacturing sector of the economy.
Two of the least optimistic results of the survey are a direct result of America’s failed trade policies. Fifty-five percent of the respondents said that they believe America’s manufacturing base will further weaken over the long-term. And 28 percent of respondents believe that it is impossible for American manufacturers to compete in a globalized economy.
Unfortunately, that pessimism is well founded. Once the engine that drove the nation’s powerful economy, America’s manufacturing base has been drastically reduced through failed trade policies. In 1980, around the time that globalization exploded and free trade agreements became more prevalent, the U.S. had 19.2 million manufacturing jobs. Since then, the sector’s total employment has fallen to just 11.6 million as jobs are outsourced to low-wage nations, like Mexico and China.
The American Prospect also estimates that, since 2001, 42,400 American factories have closed their doors, with roughly three-fourths of those employing over 500 people while they were in operation.
According to the American Prospect, since 2000, the U.S. has lost 5.5 million manufacturing jobs, with 2.1 million jobs lost in the past two years.
According to the Alliance for American Manufacturing, the sector generates $1.6 trillion annually, or 12 percent of gross domestic product, nearly three-fourths of the nation’s research and development investment, two-thirds of the nation’s total export of goods and services and employs over 20 million Americans. America’s industrial base is also instrumental in supporting the nation’s national security apparatus.
“The bottom line,” Emily DeRocco, president of The Manufacturing Institute, said in a press release, “is that we must reconcile America’s belief in the prowess of our workforce with its concerns about policy disadvantages — or we could face discouraging reports for many Labor Days to come.”