The recovery is coming - slowly
Manufacturer's Alliance/MAPI report shows modest room for growth
The Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI Quarterly Economic Forecast predicts that inflation-adjusted gross domestic product, which grew by a miniscule 1.1% in 2008, will decline 2.9% in 2009 before rebounding to 1.9% growth in 2010. The GDP forecast for 2009 in the current MAPI report is lower than the previously anticipated 2.1% decline for this year projected in the February 2009 release "We are in a severe global recession where manufacturing is taking the brunt of the decline. Fortunately, we are starting to see signs of economic conditions beginning to stabilize," said Daniel J. Meckstroth, Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI Chief Economist. "We expect that the eventual recovery will be sluggish due to continued deleveraging by consumers as they move away from excessive debt and to greater savings. Lagging improvement in the job market and persistently high unemployment rates will restrain the pace of the recovery.
"There are nonetheless inklings of a future firming economy," he added, "including the stimulus package beginning to take effect, tax cuts, rising consumer spending, strengthening commodity prices, and recent improvement in the stock market. These‘green shoots' offer a glimmer of hope moving into the latter stages of 2009 and into 2010."
Manufacturing production growth declined by 3.2% in 2008. It is likely to continue on a significant downward spiral in 2009, with expectations for an 11.8% decline this year. Previously, MAPI had forecast production to decline by 9.1% in 2009. Some relief comes in 2010 with manufacturing production anticipated to grow by 2.1%.
The expenditure category for inflation-adjusted investment in equipment and software is likely to decrease by 18% in 2009, preceding 8.5% growth in 2010. Capital equipment spending in high-tech sectors will also feel the pinch. Inflation-adjusted expenditures for information processing equipment are expected to fall 10.6% in 2009 before rising by 7.8% in 2010.
The forecast expects industrial equipment expenditures to decline by a severe 27% this year and to further decline by 1.8% in 2010. The outlook for spending on transportation equipment is for wide swings in either direction. The report calls for a 38.3% decline in 2009 followed by a 46.9% increase in 2010.
Exports and imports will both take a substantial downturn in 2009. After increasing by 6.2% in 2008, inflation-adjusted exports are anticipated to decrease by 13.6% in 2009 before experiencing 1.7% growth in 2010. Imports are expected to decline by 13.2% this year and to increase by 7.8% next year. The reduction in employment will continue as the current MAPI forecast anticipates unemployment to average 9.1% in 2009 and 9.9% in 2010.
The price per barrel of imported crude oil is expected to average $50.40 in 2009 before heading upward to $62.50 per barrel in 2010. While high by historical standards, this compares favorably to the $92.30 price per barrel in 2008.
In spite of the sober forecast overall, Meckstroth believes manufacturers' profitability will be in a better position coming out of the recession than they were after the previous downturn in 2001.
"While it still may take years to recoup production levels, industry learned a lesson in frugality in 2001," he said. "Manufacturers did not over-invest in this cycle and they proactively cut costs at the first sign of falling demand."
To view the economic forecast tables click here.
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After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.
The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.