The U.S. trade deficit in manufactures soared by 16% in 2015, resulting in a loss of 600,000 American manufacturing jobs. Sixty percent of the global deficit was with China, with U.S. manufactured imports from China 5.8 times larger than U.S. exports to China.
Manufactured goods are ubiquitous at home, in transit, and at work, but the narrow definition of manufacturing industries in national statistics implies that the sector is of only minor importance to economic activity. The traditional finding is that manufacturers’ proportion of gross domestic product (GDP) is only about 11% and manufacturing’s share of economy-wide full-time equivalent employment is just 9%. Since this excludes manufacturing activities such as research and development, corporate management, logistics operations, and advertising and branding, those figures are merely the tip of the iceberg.
Global Economy, Competitiveness, Government Policy, Economic Environment, Labor, Operations, Continuous Improvement, Productivity
Productivity growth in the computer and electronic products subsector, once the principal driver of productivity performance in the manufacturing sector, has experienced significant waning in recent years. Consequently, the U.S. manufacturing productivity outlook has become murky. This is a challenging trend for our society, because increased productivity growth helps lift living standards. The good news is that empirical evidence put forth in this paper shows that innovation and capital investment play a key role in accelerating multifactor productivity growth (i.e., output per unit of a combined set of inputs including labor, materials, and capital) in a wide range of manufacturing industries.
We lower the forecast for this year and next because of the persistent shocks to manufacturing demand and we now see more downside than upside risks. Manufacturing production will decelerate rather than accelerate this year. Production increased 2% last year and we forecast growth of only 1.1% in 2016, 2.4% in 2017, and 2.5% in 2018.
The rules-based multilateral trade and financial system created at Bretton Woods in 1944 has been crumbling over the past decade. The WTO trading system to reduce trade barriers on a reciprocal, most-favored-nation basis has been replaced by a spreading network of bilateral and regional preferential trade agreements. And far more threatening, the IMF financial system, centered on convertible, non-manipulated exchange rates, has been undermined by rampant exchange rate mercantilism, principally by China and other Asian nations.