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The Richmond Federal Reserve Bank said that manufacturing activity in its district accelerated strongly in February. The composite index for the general business assessment doubled from 14 in January to 28 in February. This was not far from November’s all-time high in the survey’s 34-year history (30). The bottom line is that manufacturers in the region see relatively strong expansions in activity through the first two months of 2018, continuing the trend of decent growth experienced for much of 2017. The underlying data were also encouraging, including healthy expansions in new orders (up from 16 to 27), shipments (up from 15 to 31), capacity utilization (up from 13 to 32), employment (up from 10 to 25) and capital expenditures (up from 18 to 28).

The Richmond Fed has also added several measures to provide even more details on this activity, with improvements seen in February for equipment and software expenditures (up from 22 to 27) and local business conditions (up from 13 to 29). In addition, an index was created for the availability of skills needed (down from -10 to -17), which continued to illustrate just how much tightness in the labor market has challenged manufacturers’ ability to hire new workers.

Moving forward, manufacturing respondents in the Richmond Fed’s district were very optimistic in their outlook for the next six months. Forward-looking measures for new orders (up from 36 to 40), shipments (unchanged at 45), capacity utilization (up from 30 to 34), employment (up from 21 to 22) and capital expenditures (up from 30 to 36) remained quite robust in February.

Meanwhile, manufacturers in the district see pricing pressures picking up in the months ahead, mirroring data seen in other reports. Those completing the survey said that prices paid for raw materials increased by 1.89 percent at the annual rate in February, up from 1.79 in January. Moreover, raw material prices are expected to grow by 2.69 percent at the annual rate six months from now, up from 2.33 percent in the prior survey. That is the highest expected growth rate for inflation since May 2013. (To be fair, input costs were seen growing 2.68 percent one year ago, but decelerated sharply after that.)

The post Richmond Fed: Manufacturing Activity Accelerated Strongly in February appeared first on Shopfloor.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis said that the U.S. economy grew by an annualized 2.5 percent in the fourth quarter, off marginally from the previous estimate of 2.6 percent growth. The overall findings were little changed from the preliminary report, with somewhat better residential investment and service-sector consumer spending being offset by slightly reduced estimates for durable and nondurable goods spending and inventory spending. Nonetheless, the latest figures continued to find solid growth in consumer, business and government spending, but headline growth was pulled lower by both net exports and inventory spending. To illustrate the impact of those various components, real GDP growth would have been 4.36 percent absent the drag from net exports and inventories, which subtracted 1.83 percentage points from the top-line growth figure.

In 2017, real GDP increased by 2.3 percent, up from 1.5 percent in 2016. Since the end of the Great Recession, the U.S. economy has expanded by 2.2 percent on average. Moving forward, we anticipate 3.0 percent growth in 2018. There continues to be upward potential in that outlook for next year, especially as firms increase their investments. Passage of comprehensive tax reform and other pro-growth measures should help to stimulate economic activity, hopefully allowing us to reach 3.0 percent annual growth for the first time since 2005.

Looking more closely at the underlying data in this report, consumer spending was the biggest bright spot. Personal consumption expenditures rose by an annualized 3.8 percent in the fourth quarter, up from 2.2 percent in the third quarter but the best reading since the second quarter of 2016. Durable and nondurable goods spending were jumped 13.8 percent and 4.3 percent, respectively, for the quarter. Service-sector spending increased by 2.1 percent. In total, personal spending contributed 2.58 percentage points to real GDP growth—suggesting that the other components of headline growth essentially offset one another. The good news here is that Americans opened their pocketbooks widely at the end of the year, boosting retail sales and, as seen here, the overall economy.

Business and government spending were also encouraging. Nonresidential fixed investment rose by 6.6 percent in the fourth quarter, led by robust growth in equipment spending, up 11.8 percent, the fastest pace in more than three years. Structures spending rebounded from a weather-related decline of 7.0 percent in the third quarter to a gain of 2.5 percent in the fourth quarter. Similarly, residential investment ended two quarters of sharp declines to jump by 13.0 percent in the fourth quarter. As a result, fixed investment in the economy rose 8.1 percent at the annual rate in the fourth quarter, adding 1.29 percentage points to real GDP.

Likewise, federal and state and local government spending increased 3.2 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively, in this report, with government expenditures adding another 0.49 percentage points to top-line growth.

In contrast to those readings, businesses spent less on inventories in the fourth quarter, subtracting 0.70 percentage points from real GDP. The silver lining, though, is that the reduction in stockpiles could necessitate additional production in the coming months—especially given the uptick in demand. That should be a positive for the first quarter of 2018.

Finally, there was mixed news on the international front, with net exports serving as the largest drag on real GDP growth in the fourth quarter, subtracting 1.13 percentage points from the headline number. On the positive side, goods exports were up a whopping 12.0 percent at the annual rate in the fourth quarter, its strongest growth rate in four years. Yet, those was more than offset by a 16.9 percent jump in goods imports in the quarter, its largest growth rate since the second quarter of 2010.

The post Real GDP Growth Revised Marginally Lower from 2.6% to 2.5% in the Fourth Quarter appeared first on Shopfloor.

With record-high optimism at their backs, manufacturers across the country are announcing new investments and expansions at an exciting clip. New investments from manufacturers like Lockheed Martin, Fiat Chrysler, Ford, and others have made headlines in recent weeks as an improving business climate, spurred on by tax reform and other policy actions, takes hold. Ohio in particular has seen benefits, as local manufacturers like Sheffer Corp and Jergens are making new investments in their facilities and their workforce.

Ohio-based trailer and motorhome manufacturer Airstream is the latest company to add to the list.

Airstream, a part of Thor Industries, announced on Monday that it plans to spend $40 million to open a new manufacturing plant in Jackson Center, Ohio:

Airstream is going to invest $40 million and open a new plant in Jackson Center, Ohio, hiring 300 workers to try to meet growing demand, CEO Bob Wheeler told CNBC Monday.

“This expansion will allow us to increase our capacity by 50%,” Wheeler told the network.

“We need this,” Wheeler said. “Demand is strong and growing.”

According to USA Today, RV sales have been booming due in part to “an influx of Millennials” starting young families:

Figures released by the association show that in January, trailers had seen a 26.6% industrywide increase in January sales compared to the same month the previous year. Motorhomes were up 25.3% in sales.

Construction on the new Airstream facility is expected to begin in May, and once complete will create 300 jobs.

The average Ohio manufacturer earns $72,534 and manufacturers in the state generated $108.09 billion in 2015. Pro-growth, pro-worker policies that help manufacturers expand and compete are critically important for the 687,000 manufacturing workers in the state.

The post Trailer Manufacturer Airstream Opening New $40 Million Facility In Ohio, Creating 300 New Jobs appeared first on Shopfloor.

With record-high optimism at their backs, manufacturers across the country are announcing new investments and expansions at an exciting clip.

U.S.-based Hunt Forest Products is getting in on the action, announcing this week that it plans to build a new state-of-the-art lumber mill in Louisiana that will ultimately create 110 new jobs:

Hunt Forest Products today announced that it will build a $115 million, state-of- the-art lumber mill in Urania, LA. Construction is expected to start in April, and the new facility will employ approximately 60 people when operations begin in January 2019. The sawmill will employ approximately 110 people when it is operating at full capacity.

“We are excited to be bringing a high-tech sawmill, and the skilled jobs it will provide, to central Louisiana, and to provide a local outlet for the massive inventory of southern yellow pine that exists in this region,” said James D. Hunt, co-owner and vice chairman of the Board of Directors of Hunt Forest Products.

“This project is a great economic boost to the center of the state, in the heart of our historic timber industry, and it will help create hundreds of direct and indirect jobs across the forestry, industrial services, and retail sectors in Urania and LaSalle Parish,” Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said.

Edwards added that the Louisiana Department of Economic Development will use the state’s workforce development program to train the local workforce with the skills the new mill will require. Louisiana is home to 136,000 manufacturing workers who contribute $49.86 billion to the economy, 21.2% of the state’s total output. Pro-growth, pro-worker policies that help manufacturers expand and compete are critically important to continue the strong growth the industry saw in 2017.

The post Hunt Forest Products Announces New $115 Million Lumber Mill In Louisiana, Creating 110 Jobs appeared first on Shopfloor.

Keeping our promises. That’s what manufacturers are doing in the wake of tax reform, and that was the message NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons delivered to the NAM Board of Directors at this week’s board meeting.

In his speech, Jay reminded the more than 200 manufacturing leaders and executives that manufacturers have a responsibility to deliver for our people—and for the country:

In the end, Congress and the President delivered. They delivered something that, again, fourteen months ago—heck, four months ago—no one thought was possible. We drove it across the line…on our terms.

Now, it’s our responsibility to deliver for America. I want you to take a journey with me 10…20 years in the future.

We want to point to this moment as the pivotal point in time that turned our economy around…that raised people’s expectations of what is achievable, from mediocrity to limitless possibility…that moved us beyond the narrative that America’s best economic days are behind us and allowed us to reassert our rightful role as the leader of the free world, powered by free markets and free people.

How will we get there? By delivering for our people.

We will invest in more plants and equipment and technology right here at home, and we will bring more foreign direct investment to our shores.

We will remember that the best investment we can make is human capital. We will hire more workers, raise pay and benefits for our employees, and we will provide them with the training they need for continued success.

Here’s what the naysayers will tell you. They will say the only people who will benefit from tax reform are the rich. They will say the only thing that will happen is stock buybacks, bigger dividends and higher executive pay.

By the way, there’s nothing wrong with any of that. But we will do so much more—and the world needs to know.

And how else will we keep our promises? Can business actually be trusted to regulate itself and govern itself? We say yes.

That’s why the developments in the regulatory space are so vital. We’re ending duplication. We’re ending costly mandates designed to drive a specific philosophical agenda.

So, 10 years in the future, will we say that our water and our air are cleaner and our workplaces are safer? I say, yes, we will. Because we can be trusted. We care about our communities, our environment and our children. We accept the responsibility.

Manufacturers step up when faced with a challenge. And today, companies across the country are stepping up to address some of society’s most pressing concerns. Jay addressed this also, issuing a call to action for manufacturers to be “allies and advocates” in taking on the challenge of sexual harassment:

Right now, ladies and gentlemen, we’re being challenged in a new way. We’re being challenged to take on the insidious problem of sexual harassment in the workplace. The stories we hear, they’re horrifying. And as the Me Too movement grows, we have an obligation to step up as allies and advocates.

Your NAM is here to help lead the way. Through our Manufacturing Institute, we’ve championed diversity and worked to empower women leaders. But there’s more to do.

Our Manufacturers’ Compliance Institute stands at the ready to help you understand the laws and legal issues, especially if you don’t have the counsel you need.

We want to work with your HR departments to identify and share best practices. I want the Manufacturing Institute to be a convener for those discussions…as well as the Council of Manufacturing Associations, which has already taken on this issue, in part through the Women’s CEO Networking Group.

Here’s what the influential outlet Axios said on the new era of corporate social responsibility. They report that businesses are tackling some of our most pressing societal problems, from climate change to immigration, LGBT discrimination and the opioid crisis, delivering real change without being regulated to do so.

And of course we are. We don’t have to be told to do what is right. When I’m challenged by the media, or challenged by some pontificating lawmaker about these things, all I have to do is tell your stories, to point to you, people who I respect and people who are respected by their employees. Yours are the examples that America needs to know about.

In a country that is so often divided, manufacturing continues to be a unifying force. As an industry, we recognize we have an obligation to bring people together for the good our country. As Jay noted, this was evident during our recent 2018 NAM State of Manufacturing Tour:

The other thing we witnessed on this tour is the power of manufacturing to bring people together. We had elected Democrats and elected Republicans joining us.

We had people of all ages and ethnicities enthused about our industry…on the East Coast, West Coast, Midwest, and the Deep South. There is a lot that divides our nation right now. But manufacturing is one of those things that unites us.

Now is the time to show our fellow citizens that they can count on us—not just to make manufacturing stronger, but also to empower them to go as far as their dreams and talents will take them.

Manufacturers want to be in the business of lifting everyone up, leaving no one behind, of advancing the values that make America exceptional: free enterprise, competitiveness, individual liberty and equal opportunity.

We give people work that provides meaning and purpose, that offers not just a paycheck, but the satisfaction of having created something that matters.

I said time and time again on the Tour, anyone can imagine the future. Anyone can be a visionary. And America has been blessed with some of the best minds the world has ever seen. But while anyone can imagine the future, it takes a manufacturer to build it.

So, let’s do everything in our power to ensure manufacturers are ready to build the best future anyone can imagine.

2017 proved to be the Year of the Manufacturer. Now, with all that we’ve been given, with all that we can still achieve, this Board of Directors, this NAM team, this organization will make sure this is the Decade of the Manufacturer in America.

For more on how manufacturers are delivering for America, visit Shopfloor.org often and follow us on social media.

The post Timmons to NAM Board: Manufacturers Will Keep Our Promises appeared first on Shopfloor.

More than 130 women in manufacturing from 11 leading companies were brought together by The Manufacturing Institute, 3M and Deloitte, for a day-long event, STEP Forward: Twin Cities, to discuss the important role women play in the manufacturing industry. Participating companies – Cargill, General Mills, Medtronic, Ecolab, Land-o-Lakes, Rockwell Automation, Ingersoll Rand, Target, Anderson Windows, 3M, and Deloitte – convened to engage in leadership development sessions, networking, facility tours and roundtable discussions.

The Manufacturing Institute launched STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Production) Forward to promote the role of women in the manufacturing industry and offer companies a unique opportunity to strengthen their diversity strategies and develop new concepts for advancing and retaining female talent. STEP Forward: Twin Cities convened women from all levels of the manufacturing workforce, from the shop floor to the C-suite. Attendees heard from Tonie Leatherberry, principal of Deloitte Risk and Financial Advisory; Jaime Tincher, Deputy Mayor with Mayor-elect Melvin Carter; and Jon Lindekugel, senior vice president of 3M Supply Chain, all of whom offered solutions and leading best practices. The event mobilized attendees to act as a catalyst for change within their companies and communities.

Filling manufacturing jobs is difficult. According to a report by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, 84 percent of executives agree there is talent shortage in the U.S. manufacturing sector, and 80 percent of manufacturing executives reported they are willing to pay more than market rate salaries and wages in order to secure qualified talent. Still, six out of ten positions remain unfilled due to the talent shortage.

Women represent only 29 percent of the manufacturing workforce – which is well below the number of women in the overall workforce. Through STEP Forward, The Manufacturing Institute, 3M and Deloitte are committed to connecting more women with the rewarding, fulfilling and well-paying opportunities that manufacturing offers.

“Our ability to close the talent gap will be a key to success going forward. As an industry, we need to tackle this issue head on, being proactive in our efforts to recruit the diverse talent needed to provide the perspective to succeed,” said Jon Lindekugel, senior vice president of 3M Supply Chain. “Programs such as STEP Forward are instrumental in reaching women with the skillsets necessary to be successful in manufacturing roles. It is our job to inform and educate this talented group of individuals on the benefits of choosing a career in manufacturing and support these candidates early on in their careers.”

“With today’s manufacturing talent shortage having reached critical mass, recruiting and retaining women isn’t just smart business: It’s an imperative,” commented Leatherberry. “Organizations that prioritize the recruitment, retention and advancement of women – and that look closely at how their current talent strategies may need to change in order to attract more women – may benefit. After all, research has shown that inclusive teams can help bolster innovation, return on equity, and profitability in the manufacturing sector.”

Companies across the U.S. agree there is a talent shortage in manufacturing. STEP Forward is working to close this gap by providing women opportunities to cultivate rewarding careers in manufacturing. The women participating in this event demonstrate what modern manufacturing careers are all about: making an impact in their communities with meaningful careers that offer significant opportunities for growth.

The post Throwback Thursday: Twin Cities Manufacturers Come Together to Promote Women in Manufacturing appeared first on Shopfloor.