"For a generation American manufacturing has been widely seen as a “declining sport.” Yet its demise has been largely overplayed. Despite the many jobs this sector has lost in the past generation, manufacturing remains remarkably resilient, with a global market share similar to that of the 1970s.
More recently, the U.S. industrial base has been on a powerful upswing, with employment climbing steadily since 2009. Boosted by productivity gains and higher costs in competitors, including China, U.S. manufacturing exports have grown at their fastest rate since the late 1980s. In 2011 American manufacturing continued to expand, while Germany, Japan and Brazil all weakened in this vital sector.
This shift towards domestic energy augurs well for a huge and economically beneficial shift in America’s longer term economic prospects. Cheap natural gas, for example, makes petrochemical production in America more competitive than anyone could have imagined a decade ago. Linkages with Mexico in terms of energy as well as autos has made Texas the nation’s primary export super-power, with current shipment 15% to 20% above pre-crisis levels.
Already the boom in natural gas has sparked a considerable industrial rebound in parts of eastern Ohio including the building of a new $650 million steel plant
for gas pipes in the Youngstown area. Karen Wright, whose Ariel Corporation sells compressors used in gas plants, has added more than 300 positions in the past two years. “There’s a huge amount of drilling throughout the Midwest,” Wright says. “This is a game changer.”
But the industrial rebound is not only about energy. Another critical factor is rising wages in East Asia, including China. Increasingly, American-based manufacturing is in a favored position as a lower-cost producer. Concerns over “knock offs” and lack of patent protection in China may also spark a growing “Made in the USA” trend."
HT: Steve Bartin