Since 2010, manufacturers in the United States have seen a shift. After the collapse of 2007 and for years watching led manufacturing facilities and jobs flock overseas, the tide is turning and manufacturing is rebounding. While there is still a way to go to return to even pre-1990 numbers, and the signs are all there that U.S. manufacturers should continue to see this crucial sector of our economy grow. The questions are how did it happen and how can it be sustained?
What Sparked the Manufacturing Rebound?
You can point to many factors pushing the manufacturing resurgence including the strong economy, both domestic and global. Many manufacturers are expanding and growing their capabilities and output.
In the past 12 months, according to the Department of Labor, manufacturers have hired 232,000 more people; 22,000 in March 2018 alone. Presently, manufacturers are searching for skilled workers and are having issues finding them. This is why we are seeing an increase in educational manufacturing programs at the high school level as well as tech colleges.
There’s also a 10-year infrastructure plan at a price tag of $1.5 trillion that will rebuild failing bridges, roads, highways and railways across the country. Manufacturers have been pushing for this for years. With this kind of investment, a positive business sentiment has companies wanting to grow their bottom lines and, in turn, need manufacturers to produce for them.
How Can the Manufacturing Boom Be Sustained?
Other than an economic downturn, the biggest factor that could harm U.S. manufacturers is the ever-tightening labor market. While we all want unemployment to be low, the market for skilled workers is the biggest obstacle to sustaining growth in our sector.
Because the world is getting smaller via digitization and automation, it’s up to manufacturers to make sure the workforce is trained and ready for the rapid changes occurring on the plant floor. Training and retaining skilled workers, while always difficult, has become more difficult with continued overseas competition as well as lower unemployment.
It’s up to all U.S. manufacturers to get into our communities and help drive a desire to be part of our manufacturing world. In a global economy, continued manufacturing growth is what will keep the U.S. competitive with other countries. While we can all agree the resurgence of U.S. manufacturing is great news, it will be up to us to keep moving forward.