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U.S. manufacturing ticks up, Dems say

August 3, 2010 |  7:35 pm

The manufacturing sector is finally showing some signs of life, if you believe a report issued this week by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee. The sector has expanded for the last six months and has added a total of 136,000 jobs since December, according to the report, "Understanding the Economy: Promising Signs of Recovery in Manufacturing."

But the reality is a little less rosy. Only five states (New Hampshire, Florida, Tennessee, Texas and Indiana) have experienced growth in manufacturing employment in each of the first six months of 2010 (California lost manufacturing jobs in March and April). The 2.7 million manufacturing jobs lost in the economic downturn far outstrip the gains made in the first six months of 2010. And June was the weakest month of gains in manufacturing jobs this year. 

There has been a gain, as the chart below shows:


Gains this year have been concentrated in fabricated metal products, transportation equipment and machinery manufacturing. That's helped states such as Michigan, Illinois, Texas and California.

But the manufacturing slowdown also created "large pools of unemployed manufacturing workers" in some states. Manufacturing made up more than 10% of employment in 26 states in June 2006 but only 17 states in December 2009.

Manufacturing employment in California has grown 1.4% between December 2009 and June 2010. It's still down 2.2% from a year earlier.

Much of the manufacturing decline in the economic downturn -- about 75% -- was in the durable-goods sector, which includes items such as transportation equipment, machinery and metals.

The recent recovery in that sector is tied to increased exports, the report argues, but for a reason: It wants readers to support recent administration initiatives to finalize trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea and to create a Cabinet position focusing on exports.

-- Alana Semuels