Manufacturing, long the sick patient in the U.S. economy as multinationals outsourced jobs, has added nearly 300,000 positions since the November 2016 election, increasing payrolls in 16 of the past 17 months. That included 22,000 positions last month. Overtime hours are up and orders are on the rise, making the current stretch among the strongest for the manufacturing sector in decades.
Manufacturing executives and economists point to a range of factors supporting hiring and investment. They include strong global growth, elevated consumer and business confidence, a softer dollar supporting exports, a domestic housing rebound, and lower tax rates that are encouraging business investment.
Tariffs are meant to support domestic producers by raising the cost of imports, but manufacturers are voicing concerns about the downside of tariffs meant to help the industry compete with low-cost labor from China. The Trump administration has threatened to slap tariffs on $50bn in products sent from China to the U.S., mostly intermediate goods and not finished consumer products, and on $100bn more.
The National Association of Manufacturers said its members agree Chinese theft of intellectual property and unfair trade threatens American companies, but it opposes tariffs.
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