The resurgence of the American manufacturing sector has been an underlying theme for everything from President Obama’s reelection campaign to Chrysler’s soaring Super Bowl commercial starring Clint Eastwood.
But for all the hopes of creating millions of new jobs where hardworking Americans show up at a factory each morning and earn an honest living making things for the world to buy, the most recent evidence, including survey data released Monday morning, has been a disappointment. The U.S. manufacturing sector isn’t collapsing, but it is definitely flat-lining.
The Institute for Supply Management said Monday that its index of activity at manufacturers rose to 51.5, from 49.6 the previous month. In that survey, numbers above 50 signal expansion, so the rise was welcome. But it followed three months of contraction and reflects weak growth compared with the recent past. In 2011, the index averaged 55.2.
“Sales have tanked over the last two months, bringing a very concerned and stressed management team,” said an unnamed apparel and leather goods manufacturer quoted in the ISM’s announcement. “Not very optimistic for the near-term future.”