Manufacturing is the engine of U.S. economic growth. That’s why, when the Federal Reserve Board hosted a virtual Fed Listens event to discuss the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, it asked NAM Chief Economist Chad Moutray to share his perspective.
In his remarks, Moutray gave an overview of activity in the manufacturing sector and laid out his expectations for the road ahead. Here are some of the highlights.
A positive outlook: “Manufacturers are experiencing very strong demand as the U.S. and global economy recovers from the steep declines in activity seen last year at the beginning of COVID-19,” said Moutray. “Indeed, the most recent NAM Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey found that 87.5% of respondents were positive about their company’s outlook, which—while down from the three-year high seen in June—remained a healthy figure.”
Concerns on the horizon: “At the same time, manufacturing leaders cited rising raw material costs as their top concern for the third straight quarter, followed closely by challenges with attracting and retaining enough workers, with supply chain disruptions, and with logistics and transportation issues,” said Moutray. “Interestingly, 81.5% of those completing the survey said that workforce shortages were the biggest downside risk to their economic forecast, closely followed by supply chain disruptions, increased cost pressures and the continued spread of COVID-19, including the delta variant.”
Supply chain struggles: “While manufacturing growth remains solid, supply chain bottlenecks are significant, holding back even stronger expansions in the sector,” said Moutray. “Manufacturers continue to cite the backlog of cargo at the ports, the shortage of truck drivers and soaring shipping costs as significant impediments. In a just-in-time production environment, this poses a serious challenge to production and capacity—and the shortage of workers is not helping either.”
A look ahead: “These supply chain and logistics issues are likely to extend into at least the first half of 2022, at least based on my conversations with manufacturing executives,” said Moutray. “While pricing pressures are likely to stabilize as we move into 2022—assisted by a more-favorable base comparison—it is also clear that some costs will remain elevated relative to pre-pandemic levels, and core inflation might run hotter than we had become accustomed to.”
Dive Deeper: Read more about the economic outlook in the NAM’s 2021 3rd Quarter Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey.
Manufacturing businesses have long been proponents of equality in the workplace. As legislation to codify protections for LGBT individuals passes through the House of Representatives, the National Association of Manufacturers joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, and other members of the business community in advocating its passage, forging coalitions and providing congressional testimony.
Introduced with bipartisan support in the U.S. House and Senate in March, the Equality Act includes federal protections for individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity under the existing framework of the Civil Rights Act, which already provides protection against discrimination on the basis of religion, national origin, race, color or sex. The goal of the legislation is to ensure that no person can face legal discrimination based on their gender or sexual orientation, setting a clear federal standard to enable individuals to succeed based on their abilities and qualifications to perform a job.
“Employers understand the importance of creating an environment in which the very best people can succeed based on merit,” Patrick Hedren, NAM vice president, labor, legal and regulatory policy, said. “At the same time, manufacturers know that discrimination in any form is antithetical to the values that we work to uphold every day: equality of opportunity, individual liberty, free enterprise and competitiveness.”
In March, more than 40 other industry associations rallied to support the Equality Act, providing an important boost for the groundbreaking legislation. In the weeks since, manufacturing representatives have testified before the House Education and Labor Committee and signed a coalition letter to the House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services calling for the Act’s passage. As Congress considers the way forward, manufacturers have made clear that they intend to advocate forcefully on behalf of the legislation and uphold their commitment to workers of every gender identity and sexual orientation.
“The Equality Act creates a clear federal standard that matches the sentiments manufacturers already share: gender identity and sexual orientation have no impact on an employee’s abilities and discrimination is not welcome on the manufacturing floor,” Hedren said. “We look forward to working with Congress as this important legislation moves ahead.”
Washington, D.C. – National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) President and CEO Jay Timmons released the following statement after the Department of Labor (DOL) rescinded the 2016 Persuader Rule:
Manufacturers have fought for this victory for many years in the courts, in Congress and with two administrations, using the full weight of our policy, government relations and legal teams, said Timmons. The NAM’s Manufacturers’ Center for Legal Action was able to halt the rule in court in 2016.And in 2017, the Trump administration, as part of its broader regulatory relief agenda, thankfully began the process of unwinding the rule. This overreaching rule threatened to impose serious burdens on manufacturers and upend employee–employer communications. Now manufacturers are relieved that this threat to workplace communications is finally and officially off the books. Commonsense steps like this to rein in onerous regulations are a major reason why manufacturers are reporting record-high business optimism.
The Manufacturers’ Center for Legal Action (MCLA) is the leading voice of manufacturers in the courts and engages in a range of activities, including direct party litigation and operating a robust amicus program, as well as educating manufacturers about emerging legal trends. The MCLA is led by NAM Senior Vice President and General Counsel Linda Kelly and NAM Vice President of Litigation and Deputy General Counsel Peter Tolsdorf. More information on the MCLA can be found here.
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs more than 12 million men and women, contributes $2.25 trillion to the U.S. economy annually, has the largest economic impact of any major sector and accounts for more than three-quarters of private-sector research and development. The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States. For more information about the Manufacturers or to follow us on Shopfloor, Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org.