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Manufacturing & The Economy

Record Number of Manufacturing Jobs Returning to U.S.

According to a study from the Reshoring Initiative, “[s]ixty thousand manufacturing jobs were added in the U.S. in 2014, versus 12,000 in 2003, either through so-called reshoring, in which American companies bring jobs back to the U.S., or foreign direct investment, in which foreign companies move production to the U.S.,” Dow Jones Business News reports.

“One big catalyst behind the trend: Escalating wages in traditionally lower-cost countries, including China, have pushed companies to reconsider sourcing strategies.”

NAM Monday Economic Report – May 4, 2015

The U.S. economy stagnated in the first quarter, with real GDP growing by just 0.2 percent. This compares to a consensus estimate of 1.1 percent, and it was lower than the 5.0 percent and 2.2 percent growth rates observed in the third and fourth quarters of 2014, respectively. As one might expect from a data point that is just shy of zero, the underlying contributions to growth were mixed. Net exports and government spending were drags on activity in the first quarter, particularly with headwinds from a stronger dollar. Consumer spending on goods and nonresidential fixed investment were also weak, with the latter experiencing sharp declines stemming from the energy market and its supply chain. The bright spots—to the extent that you could call them that—were service-sector spending and a rebound in inventories.

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Consumer Confidence Retreated in April

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, which had increased in March, declined in April. The Index now stands at 95.2, down from 101.4 in March. The Present Situation Index decreased from 109.5 last month to 106.8 in April. The Expectations Index declined from 96.0 last month to 87.5 in April.

“Consumer confidence, which had rebounded in March, gave back all of the gain and more in April,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board. “This month’s retreat was prompted by a softening in current conditions, likely sparked by the recent lackluster performance of the labor market, and apprehension about the short-term outlook. The Present Situation Index declined for the third consecutive month. Coupled with waning expectations, there is little to suggest that economic momentum will pick up in the months ahead.”  

U.S. GDP Increased 0.2% in the First Quarter

U.S. GDP increased at an annual rate of 0.2% in the first quarter of 2015, according to the first estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Economists were predicting an increase of 1.0%. In the fourth quarter, real GDP increased 2.2%.

The increase in real GDP in the first quarter primarily reflected positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures (PCE) and private inventory investment that were partly offset by negative contributions from exports, nonresidential fixed investment, and state and local government spending. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased. Weather and lower energy prices had a negative impact on the GDP as well. 

Texas Manufacturing Activity Weakens Again

Texas factory activity declined in April, according to business executives responding to the Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey. The production index, a key measure of state manufacturing conditions, posted a second negative reading in a row, coming in at -4.7.

Other measures of current manufacturing activity also reflected continued contraction in April. The new orders index edged up but remained negative at -14. The growth rate of orders index held steady at -15.5, posting its sixth consecutive negative reading. The capacity utilization index pushed further negative to -10.4, its lowest level since August 2009, and the shipments index edged up but stayed below zero at -5.6.

Perceptions of broader business conditions remained quite pessimistic for a fourth month in a row. The general business activity index stayed negative but ticked up to -16 in April, while the company outlook index moved down to -7.8, reaching its lowest reading in nearly two and a half years.

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