During President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, a key part of his “Make America Great Again” pitch was bringing manufacturing jobs back to the United States in a big way. But business reporter Andrew Van Dam, in a new Washington Post article, stresses that the U.S. has been seeing a manufacturing slowdown in recent months and offers some reasons why.
Trump, Van Dam notes, inherited an increase in manufacturing jobs when he was sworn in as president in January 2017.
“In the first quarter of 2017, as Trump’s term began, manufacturing posted its best quarter since 2014,” Van Dam recalls. “The turnaround appears to have started under President Barack Obama and accelerated under Trump.”
One of the things Trump railed against in 2016 was American companies outsourcing and manufacturing their products in other countries. That didn’t end after he became president, although Van Dam explains that the U.S. did experience a manufacturing increase at the end of the Obama era and during the Trump era in 2017 and 2018.
“When Trump was born in 1946,” Van Dam observes, “factories employed more than a third of the American workforce. In July, they tied a record low of 8.5%.” Van Dam cites a number of factors for sluggish manufacturing in the U.S., from “trade war turbulence” to “an uncertain world.”
“It’s difficult to discern where the fallout from the trade war ends and where the global slowdown begins, especially because one helped beget the other,” Van Dam writes. And the uncertainty in the world, according to Van Dam, ranges from Brexit to “escalating disputes with Iran” to “chaos in Venezuela.”
According to one widely watched index, global policy uncertainty is hovering near its highest levels on record.
“Trump has promised that a range of elusive trade deals, particularly with China, will revive U.S. manufacturing,” Van Dam reports. “But there is no sign of a breakthrough. And in the interim, many U.S. companies are waiting to see what happens.”