ABC 2018: U.S. manufacturing is strong despite workforce headwinds

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NAM economist Chad Moutray

NAM economist Chad Moutray

WASHINGTON D.C. — U.S. manufacturing is more robust than it’s been in years, but workforce shortages could hamper future growth.

That’s according to Chad Moutray, chief economist at the National Association of Manufacturers, who spoke this morning at the American Boating Congress in Washington D.C.

“Manufacturing is growing 3 percent,” Moutray said. “We haven’t grown at 3 percent since 2014.”

Job openings, however, are at an all-time high, he said.

“We’ve added 1.2 million workers since the recession,” Moutray said. “When you hear people doubt whether we make anything in America, let them know. We do well and we’re struggling.”

Moutray has heard from manufacturers who haven’t been able to take on work because they don’t have staff, which has been echoed throughout the marine industry. A lack of construction workers is holding back housing starts, he said.

“There’s only so long you can work your workforce in overtime,” Moutray said. “We’ve seen up-skilling taking place, and there are new technologies. I’ve heard stories of people who are retirement age who are lured to stay. There are a lot of things that companies can do to stretch that out.”

“Frankly, the problem is there aren’t enough workers,” National Marine Manufacturers Association president Thom Dammrich told Trade Only Today. “It’s not that there aren’t enough workers that are trained, there just aren’t enough workers. The solution is legal immigration. We need immigration reform so we can get the flow of legal immigrants in this country. Our economy can’t grow without a growing population, and immigration is the path to achieve that.”