OPINION: American factory jobs are booming again under Biden

By SAHID FAWAZ
Labor 411

After plummeting during the pandemic, American manufacturing jobs are roaring back.

The New York Times reports:

“Ever since American manufacturing entered a long stretch of automation and outsourcing in the late 1970s, every recession has led to the loss of factory jobs that never returned. But the recovery from the pandemic recession has been different: American manufacturers have now added enough jobs to regain all that they shed — and then some.

NEW AREAS OF GROWTH
The resurgence has not been driven by companies bringing back factory jobs that had moved overseas, nor by the brawny industrial sectors and regions often evoked by President Biden, former President Donald J. Trump and other champions of manufacturing.

Instead, the engines in this recovery include pharmaceutical plants, craft breweries and ice-cream makers. The newly created jobs are more likely to be located in the Mountain West and the Southeast than in the classic industrial strongholds of the Great Lakes.

American manufacturers cut roughly 1.36 million jobs from February to April of 2020, as Covid-19 shut down much of the economy. As of August this year, manufacturers had added back about 1.43 million jobs, a net gain of 67,000 workers above pre-pandemic levels.

PANDEMIC, RECESSION AND RECOVERY
Data suggest that the rebound is largely a product of the unique circumstances of the pandemic recession and recovery. Covid-19 crimped global supply chains, making domestic manufacturing more attractive to some companies. Federal stimulus spending helped to power a shift in Americans’ buying habits away from services like travel and restaurants and toward goods like cars and sofas, helping domestic factory production — and with it, job growth — to bounce back much faster than it did in the previous two recessions.

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said the recovery of manufacturing jobs was a result of the unique nature of the recession, which was induced by the pandemic, and the robust federal response, including legislation like the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan of 2021.

“We had a huge shift away from services and into goods that spurred production and manufacturing and very rapid recovery in the U.S. economy,” Yellen told reporters during a trip to Detroit this month. The support for local economies and small businesses included in Mr. Biden’s rescue plan, she said, “has been tremendously helpful in restoring the health of the job market and given the shifting in spending patterns, I think that’s been to the benefit of manufacturing.”

American manufacturers, like many industries, have struggled to find raw materials, component parts and skilled workers. And yet, they have continued to create jobs at a rate that has surprised even some longtime promoters of American factory employment.

“We have 67,000 more workers today than we had in February 2020,” said Chad Moutray, the chief economist for the National Association of Manufacturers. “I didn’t think we would get there, to be honest with you.”

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