Report: Manufacturing’s growth spurt needs more help

Congressional study points to more STEM education, better regulations to help boost jobs and exports


A new Congressional report points to substantial growth in manufacturing jobs since 2010. It also calls for a bi-partisan effort to address the continuing shortfall in skilled workers and the need to reduce barriers to exports for American manufacturers. 

By Jessica DuBois-MaahsIn its report, “Manufacturing Jobs for the Future,” the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee noted great improvement in the post-recession manufacturing sector. “After being hit hard during the recent recession, U.S. manufacturing employment has increased by 554,000 jobs since February of 2010,” the report stated. “Exports are strengthening the recovery; the value of manufacturing exports has grown by 38 percent since 2009. More than 3 million manufacturing jobs are currently attributable to exports."

"The recent growth in manufacturing is partially due to companies bringing production back to the U.S. Several factors have made locating production in the U.S. more attractive: productivity gains, increases in labor costs among key competitors, lower natural gas costs in the U.S. and the benefits of locating production and research and development in close proximity."

But with manufacturing needing to add 1.7 million new jobs to reach pre-recession employment, the report cites four areas that should be addressed: Strengthening America’s 21st century workforce; Expanding access to capital; Opening markets abroad; and Creating the conditions necessary for growth.

 “America is a country that innovates, makes things, and exports to the world, and manufacturing has long been an engine of economic growth and a key source of good jobs,” said U.S. Sen. Amy Senator Klobuchar (D-MN), vice chair of the Joint Economic Committee, in a press release announcing the report. “This report highlights immediate, bipartisan actions Congress can take to strengthen American manufacturing, from cutting red tape to increase U.S. exports to boosting STEM education."

The report cites a recent study that said 83 percent of manufacturers were experiencing moderate to severe shortages of high-skill workers. An estimated 600,000 manufacturing jobs, most of them high-tech jobs, remain unfilled.

Klobuchar has co-authored two new bills with Republican colleagues that would address some of these issues. Klobuchar and Sen. John Hoeven have co-sponsored the the bipartisan Innovate America Act to create 100 new STEM high schools in America and support scientific research. She and Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins have introduced the SCORE Act, a bill designed to reduce unnecessary regulations for manufacturers.

It would establish a review panel within the Congressional Budget Office that would review regulations and legislation to determine its economic impact prior to adoption, as well as review the impact of similar legislation already in place. 

“America’s manufacturing sector is already coming back and is an important part of our nation’s economic recovery,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), in the press release. “This report makes clear why it is so important that Washington focuses on manufacturing jobs instead of manufactured crises. Manufacturing jobs are high-quality jobs — they pay more in wages and benefits, create local service jobs, and contribute significantly to the local economy.”

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