On Tuesday, The Washington Post ran a lengthy “fact check” of President Trump’s remarks last week in Montana. One of the statements that came under the Post’s scrutiny was this one: “Ninety-five percent of U.S. manufacturers are optimistic about the future. That’s the highest number ever.”
The Post called it “misleading,” but this statement, which is a clear and unambiguous reference to the NAM’s most recent quarterly Outlook Survey, accurately reflect the results. This is a survey of NAM members—one that has been conducted regularly since 1997. In the latest release, 95.1 percent of manufacturers surveyed reported a positive outlook for their business, the highest number ever recorded in the 20 years the NAM has conducted this survey.
These numbers have been widely cited in the news media, by leaders in Congress and the president himself. However, The Post goes on to say: “In the latest survey, released in June, medium and large manufacturers’ confidence had increased to 20-year highs but small manufacturers’ confidence had decreased.” This does not make the president’s characterization untrue. Again, the overall optimism figure which spans all sizes of manufacturers was a record-setting 95.1 percent in the second quarter.
The Post closes their “fact check” with an attack on the NAM’s 20-year old survey, discounting the results because it “is not necessarily representative of all manufacturers” and that our membership “is a very low level of coverage for a survey of this kind.” This is ridiculous.
NAM membership includes the majority of Fortune 500 manufacturers. Those members alone account for nearly $4 trillion in annual revenue. It is worth noting that these companies make up less than 10 percent of the 14,000 companies that constitute the NAM’s membership. The sheer size of the economic footprint of our membership is indisputable, and that is why, as the nation’s largest manufacturing trade association, the NAM is the leading voice of manufacturers in America representing every sector of the manufacturing economy from companies small and large.
A gratuitous and misleading “fact check” does not change the conclusion that manufacturers are upbeat about their own company’s outlook right now—something that is clearly supported by other data. On the claim wrongly called into question by The Washington Post, the president clearly had his facts correct.
Dr. Chad Moutray, Ph.D. is the chief economist at the National Association of Manufacturers.