One Million New Factory Jobs?

During last year’s presidential campaigns, the Obama and Romney campaigns and their supporters ran more than 975,000 in combined television spots on the issue of job creation. Jobs were - and are - a top priority for the American people. In President Obama’s nomination acceptance speech, he went further and promised to create one million new domestic manufacturing jobs by the end of his second term.

We welcomed that news as a commitment to rebuilding the middle class. It was a quantifiable and achievable goal. And, after the president won reelection, we looked forward to seeing his administration implement the policies needed to keep that promise.

To be clear, we thought creating one million manufacturing jobs was actually a modest goal considering the millions of manufacturing jobs lost in the United States in the past few years (5.5 million disappeared between 2000 and 2009.)

We’re approaching six months into President Obama’s second term and we've seen six monthly jobs reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That gives us a good time frame to judge whether or not the president is on track to keep his promise.

To be frank, he’s not on track. The manufacturing numbers are dismal at best.

Let’s review the BLS data:

• The manufacturing sector lost 6,000 jobs in June.
• The manufacturing sector lost 7,000 jobs in May.
• The manufacturing sector lost 7,000 jobs in April.
• The manufacturing sector lost 4,000 jobs in March.
• The manufacturing sector gained 23,000 jobs in February.
• The manufacturing sector gained 14,000 jobs in January.

It’s not a promising trend.

Because of the import of the president’s promise and as a way to monitor the progress toward the president’s stated benchmark, the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) in February unveiled a monthly jobs tracker: the #AAMeter. Using the manufacturing numbers from the monthly BLS jobs reports, AAM provides a snapshot of how far the president has come in fulfilling his convention promise.

Right now, our meter shows a mere +13,000.

Clearly, we have a long way to go. To reach the goal of one million new manufacturing jobs by January 2017, the United States will need to create an average of 24,000 manufacturing jobs per month. That suddenly looks like a daunting task.

At this point, we’re not sure the president or Congress are doing anything to address this drop-off. In fact, they may be doing more harm than good: Congress, by underinvesting in research, education, and America’s infrastructure; the Obama Administration, by not holding our trade partners (China and Japan in particular) accountable for their currency manipulation and other market-distorting practices. 

The United States is the only major industrial nation that does not have a cohesive national manufacturing strategy. But there are steps we can take, and AAM has outlined a plan in our new book, ReMaking America, that Washington could follow to help meet President Obama’s manufacturing jobs goal. These include much-needed infrastructure investment, workforce training, strong enforcement of our trade laws, and an emphasis on Buy America preferences in public works. If the Administration and Congress show a genuine willingness to act on these common sense policies, we’ll see our Jobs Tracker move toward one million jobs gained – and quite possibly beyond.

If not, we’ll have heard empty campaign promises about manufacturing jobs yet again.

At times, we wonder if anyone in Washington is even interested in creating jobs. Sequesters, debt, and scandals capture the attention of the pundits, but none of that is doing a thing to put America back to work.

The president can fulfill his campaign pledge - if he meant it. We’re willing to help.

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