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Manufacturing on the mend

Herb Niles on sales and marketing management

October 8, 2012
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As this column goes to print, the dog days of summer are behind us and the pit bulls (sometimes referred to as politicians) are front and center, covering the airways with their attack ads.

Fortunately for those of us who reside in California we are spared most of that, because given our voting pattern, the candidates assume the outcome and spend their money in the “swing states.”

 Jobs and the economy will play a major role in the outcome of this election and both candidates have some points to make. While there has been some improvement in the unemployment rates, it is still far from satisfactory.

According to a recent Bloomberg report, the number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits was little changed in mid August, bringing the average over the past month to the lowest level since late March, a sign the labor market has stabilized after employment picked up in July. “It’s certainly further evidence the labor market doesn’t look like it’s in danger of falling off a cliff,” said Jeremy Lawson, senior U.S. economist at BNP Paribas in New York. “At the same time, the hiring rate is still fairly soft.”

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 163,000 in July, and the unemployment rate was essentially unchanged at 8.3 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported recently. Employment rose in professional and business services, food services and drinking places, and (of particular interest to the safety industry) manufacturing.

Employment trend continues upward

Manufacturing employment rose in July (+25,000), with nearly all of the increase in durable goods manufacturing. Within durable goods, the motor vehicles and parts industry had fewer seasonal layoffs than is typical for July, contributing to a seasonally adjusted employment increase of 13,000. Employment continued to trend up in fabricated metal products (+5,000).

Our business reflects the continued improvement in manufacturing as well as the petrochemical, refining and oil/gas exploration. 

The manufacturing number, of course, is a major focus of the respective campaigns. While President Obama can point to some steady gains in employment over the past couple years, Governor Romney can point out it is not nearly enough.

Both campaigns claim they have the answers, but I’m not sure any president has much influence over the economy and employment. If they did, one would imagine we would be at full employment all the time. I can’t imagine a president who would want otherwise.

The economy won’t be the only issue of course; healthcare, medicare and social security reform will also get lots of attention, but those of you in the battleground states can expect to get a heavy dose of ads in the coming weeks.

My guess is that they will be long on rhetoric and short on substance. I also think the country will survive regardless the outcome of the election.

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