2011 Annual Index

Sponsored by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute

Hungry for a strong manufacturing sector, Americans are nervous about its future.

As Labor Day passes, all eyes are on the U.S. economy, with many wondering whether we’re still in the midst of a weak recovery or perched on the precipice of another recession. At the top of the list of concerns: Jobs. Americans are looking for jobs that have so far failed to materialize after the significant cut-backs during the Great Recession. No matter how you look at it, we face a challenging, stubborn economic environment – particularly when it comes to job creation.

Our third annual survey of the American public indicates that nearly three-fourths (72%) of those surveyed do not believe that the economy has been improving or is in better shape since 2008. Over two-thirds (67%) of those surveyed believe the economy remains weak and could fall back into recession. And Americans are nearly evenly split, 50-50, on whether the economy will show significant signs of improvement by 2015. Additionally, the public is not confident that business leaders and policy makers necessarily understand how to effectively grow and strengthen the economy.

So it is noteworthy that our recent survey of the American public’s opinion on manufacturing reveals that throughout one of the most turbulent periods in U.S economic history, they have maintained remarkably consistent views, year after year, on the importance of manufacturing. Starting in the immediate aftermath of the recession in 2008-2009, each year our survey has uncovered a consistently high regard for manufacturing, both in terms of its role in the U.S. economy and our global standing, as well as its importance in job creation. In many cases, the results of our queries on these messages are virtually interchangeable over the past three years.

This is good news for both policy makers and business leaders. It suggests that despite the frequent swings of public opinion on a wide range of topics, Americans remain steadfast in their commitment to creating a strong, healthy, globally competitive manufacturing sector in the United States, no matter the prevailing economic winds. And it further suggests they would support, and expect, appropriate investments toward that end. That’s important for leaders in business and government to understand, as they work together to pull the right levers on the country’s economic and job creation engine. According to the public, manufacturing is a consistent top priority.

And the good news for the American public is that the past year has shown some positive developments in manufacturing. In 2010, the number of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. grew 1.2%, the first increase since 1997. While these new jobs hardly make up for the number of manufacturing jobs lost since that time, this is a step in the right direction according to our survey results.

Nurturing and sustaining this delicate growth will require a mix of effective policy decisions, steady supplies of world-class talent, and positive shifts in investment and growth strategies for manufacturing by both business leaders and policy makers. Our survey shows significant challenges in the area of public perceptions, indicating that while Americans generally hold strong views on the importance of manufacturing, they hold negative views about its future in the U.S.

We created this annual research program to provide a running view of the U.S. public’s perspectives on manufacturing to supplement the many other research reports and perspectives of economists, policy makers, business leaders and other subject matter experts. Taken together, the public’s views are an important bellwether for public policy and should be an important consideration for all those responsible for planning and enabling America’s future.

Authors:

Craig A. Giffi

Vice Chairman

U.S. Consumer & Industrial Products Leader

Deloitte LLP

cgiffi@deloitte.com

Emily Stover DeRocco

President

The Manufacturing Institute

EDeRocco@nam.org