Looking Ahead to Friday's Jobs Numbers

08/05/2010 12:04 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

July's employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, out this Friday morning, will provide the latest snapshot of the nation's employment situation, detailing how many jobs were gained or lost in July. With the new numbers, we'll also get fresh data on how the manufacturing sector fared. But one month's numbers -- whatever they turn out to be -- shouldn't obscure the reality that it will take patience, new policies and the creation of new industries for America to significantly strengthen its manufacturing leadership.

The U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC), which I chair, released a new report this week on the rebound in the manufacturing sector. Though the report offers reasons for optimism, it also makes clear that the long decline in manufacturing will not be overcome in a year, or even two.

Since peaking in June 1979, the manufacturing sector has lost 8 million jobs. More than half of those jobs -- 4.7 million -- were lost during the eight years of the Bush Administration. The most recent loss of manufacturing jobs was concentrated in durable goods, with three-fourths of the manufacturing jobs lost between June 2006 and December 2009 in durable goods manufacturing. During this same period, big manufacturing states like Michigan, Ohio and Indiana saw manufacturing jobs losses of 31 percent, 24 percent and 25 percent, respectively.

But a turnaround has begun. 136,000 manufacturing jobs have been added since the beginning of 2010. Manufacturing employment has increased for six consecutive months, the longest stretch of growth since 1997.

States that were hard hit have begun to recover, with large manufacturing states in the Midwest and South leading the way. Indiana's manufacturing employment jumped 4 percent in the first half of 2010 and Michigan, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin each posted gains of about 3 percent.

The resurgent auto industry has played a key role, adding 55,000 jobs since June of last year and almost 29,000 of those since the beginning of this year. This is not an accident. Rather, it is the result of smart actions taken by Congress and the Obama and Bush administrations to support the auto industry, when it was teetering on the verge of collapse. In the process, we saved hundreds of thousands of good-paying U.S. jobs.

Democrats know that the road ahead is filled with challenges. Some of the recent manufacturing job growth may be due to inventory restocking, as opposed to new sales. The ISM PMI Index, a closely followed barometer of manufacturing health, shows that manufacturing growth has slowed from earlier in 2010. And the June job gains in manufacturing were the smallest gains so far this year.

Democrats' "Make it in America" agenda is focused on creating jobs and enacting a long-term agenda that strengthens U.S. manufacturing capabilities. There's no simple or single solution. It's a comprehensive approach focused on ensuring that:

  • Like other countries, our nation is guided by a national manufacturing strategy;
  • We are investing in emerging areas like clean energy manufacturing;
  • The federal government is supporting basic research that will enable tomorrow's industries;
  • American workers have the skills they need to compete globally; and,
  • Our manufacturers are getting the support they need to export their products around the world.

In fact, this week, the President is expected to sign the U.S. Manufacturing Enhancement Act, one element of the "Make it in America" agenda to strengthen competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers by reducing duties on raw materials that these companies use during production.

The strength of our manufacturing sector is central to the overall health of our economy. It also has a lot to do with how Americans view our position in the world. In a recent poll conducted for the Alliance for American Manufacturing, respondents ranked manufacturing as the most important industry for both the overall strength of the American economy and our national security.

We don't know what Friday's July jobs numbers will tell us. Maybe manufacturing employment expanded for a seventh straight month. Maybe it didn't. But what matters more than one month's job gains or losses is the overall direction we're headed -- and when it comes to manufacturing, we're moving forward, in the right direction.

Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney represents parts of Queens and Manhattan in the U.S. House of Representatives where she is the Chair of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee.