Manufacturing emerges as leading sector in the U.S. economy

January 6, 2012

For the first time in recent memory, one of the brightest stars in the U.S. economy has been the manufacturing sector.

According to The New York Times, the Labor Department reports are projected to show that companies in the manufacturing sector will have added jobs in two consecutive years.

Until 2010, there had no been a single year when manufacturing employment rose since 1997, furthering the notion that the industry is in the midst of a comeback.

This positive news, coupled with a recent and positive ADP National Employment Report, may mean that the overall economy is beginning to show signs of recovery, according to the Times. The report by the payroll company indicated that there was a growth in private-sector jobs in December.

The U.S. manufacturing sector has remained a prominent player in the world market, despite the perception that Asian countries hold a monopoly on the industry. Numbers also show the pre-recession levels are returning for American companies.

According to the Times, the U.S. ranked second in the world in 2010 in total exports, behind China but ahead of Germany.

The newspaper reported that the value of American manufactured exports over a 12-month period peaked at $1.095 trillion in the summer of 2008, and the same gauge climbed back to $1.074 trillion in 2011.

Hiring in the manufacturing sector has also picked up since the recession hit its lowest levels, in early 2010, as the sector added 302,000 of the total 2.4 million jobs in the U.S. economy since that point.

The U.S. economy is still not completely out of the hole, but data like the Institute for Supply Management survey provided positive news, at least for the manufacturing sector. The latest reading, of 57.6, showed expansion in the industry and an increasing strength in new orders.

Positive jobs data for December showed that the labor market is gaining momentum entering the new year, as the national unemployment rate dropped to 8.5 percent. According to Bloomberg, employers added 1.64 million workers in 2011, the best year for the American worker since 2006. Industry experts noted that this may be a year of continued progress for the U.S. economy.

"It really does look like the economy is beginning to change gears as the labor market is firming," Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors Inc. in Holland, Pennsylvania, told the news outlet. "We started off 2011 with pretty solid job gains and that looks like it could be the case in 2012 as well."