WASHINGTON — The consequences of the housing downturn seem to be partially offset by improvements in international trade and business investments in structures, according to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) Annual Labor Day Report.
A more competitive dollar and economic growth in Asia, Europe and Latin America have helped U.S. exports outpace imports. This should continue through 2008, which is good news for manufacturers.
This year’s report also has some good news for the American worker. While last year saw high energy prices eating into wages, this year, with the moderation of unemployment, wages are outpacing inflation and workers are seeing real wage gains, according to David Huether, Chief Economist with the NAM.
At close to $69,000, average overall yearly compensation for full-time manufacturers is 30 percent higher than the average wage for the rest of the private sector workforce.
Huether adds that this could not have come at a better time.
“In the past, consumer spending came from mortgage equity withdraws,” he said. “Now that that is drying up, without the wage gains, the economy could slow or fall into a recession.”
While construction- and housing-related sectors have taken a hit when it comes to employment, growth rates are good in other segments of the industry, an indication the downturn hasn’t spread.
For employers, the picture is less rosy.
“Finding qualified employees is still a major headache,” Huether said. “It ranks second to healthcare costs as a top challenge for employers.”
Today’s manufacturing jobs are more sophisticated than they were in the past, and more and more employees have college degrees. Unfortunately, 97 percent of those with degrees are currently employed, signaling a shrinking labor pool.
In response, the NAM is working to align education and training with business needs. Additional information on NAM initiatives can be found here.
For more on the report, click here.