NAM Study Influences Lawmakers, Business Leaders on Ozone

It is all over the news, the new proposed ozone regulation from the Obama Administration and it will be the most expensive regulation of all time with a price tag of over $1.7 million from 2017-2024.

A study by NERA Economic Consulting and commissioned by the National Association of Manufacturers examined the economic impacts of a 65 ppb national ambient air quality standard for ozone  and revealed that a new ozone regulation could cost the economy $140 billion per year and place over one million jobs at risk. (continue reading…)

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Concerns Pour in As Ozone Comment Period Draws to a Close

The close of the EPA’s public comment period on its proposed revision to ground-level ozone standards has brought with it a flurry of activity, as lawmakers and leaders across party lines and at all levels of government voice their frustration with the rule.

And with the most expensive rule in American history waiting in the wings, it’s no surprise that elected officials are eager to urge the EPA to show restraint as they consider a shift from the current standard of 75 parts per billion to 65 – 70 parts per billion. (continue reading…)

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The Fed Drops “Patience” from its Monetary Policy Statement

As expected, the Federal Reserve no longer says that it can be “patient” in normalizing monetary policy. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), which met on March 17 and 18, does say that “an increase in the target range for the federal funds rate remains unlikely at the April FOMC meeting.” This would suggest that the soonest that short-term rate might increase would be at the June 16-17 meeting. With that said, the fed funds rate will change only when data warrant such actions. Still, conventional wisdom holds that the FOMC will vote to raise rates at some point in 2015, likely in June, July or September. For the most part, the Fed has been on automatic pilot with its intentions for a mid-year hike, and this action clears the way for that to happen. (continue reading…)

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Korea Trade Agreement Boosts Exports, Provides Mechanisms to Address Challenges

Manufacturers cheered when the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) entered into force three years ago yesterday. The deal aimed to open Asia’s fourth largest economy to U.S. exports of industrial goods and a wide array of other products and services. It established strong transparency rules, competition policy and intellectual property and other protections that sought to establish a level playing field.

While the KORUS FTA is still being implemented and challenges remain, manufacturers are seeing important gains. Roughly 80 percent of Korean tariffs on U.S. products have already been eliminated, helping to drive strong sales of plastics, processed foods, semiconductor equipment and many other manufactured products. Overall, U.S. manufactured good exports to South Korea increased $2.6 billion between 2012 and 2014, reaching a record high of $37.4 billion last year. (continue reading…)

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Michigan Created the Most Manufacturing Jobs in January

Michigan created the most net new manufacturing jobs in January, according to the latest state figures from the Bureau of Labor of Statistics. There were 4,900 additional manufacturing workers in Michigan in January, which continues to benefit from strong demand in motor vehicles and parts. Other states with significant employment gains in the sector in January included Georgia (up 3,900), Ohio (up 3,600), North Carolina (up 3,400), Wisconsin (up 2,900) and Kentucky (up 2,800). (continue reading…)

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Manufacturers Need a Functional Immigration System

A recent report released by the Manufacturing Institute shows that 82 percent of manufacturers have a moderate to severe shortage of highly skilled applicants and face reduced earnings of up to 11 percent annually due to skills shortages. These facts bear out the plain and simple fact that there are not enough highly-skilled workers to meet the increasingly technological demands of manufacturing. This is true despite manufacturing employees being compensated almost 9 percent more than other industries and manufacturers spending an average of $1500 per employee per year on training.

To help fill this gap, manufacturers may attempt to recruit foreign-born workers through the use of H-1B visas, a limited but valuable method of ensuring that the next generation of innovation comes from the US. This issue affects manufacturers from California to New York in all manufacturing sectors from what people traditionally think of as hi-tech industries to heavy equipment and metal fabricating –  and many of these potential employees are recruited because they are graduating from U.S. universities with the skills and training manufacturers are looking for. (continue reading…)

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Housing Starts Plummeted in February, but Permits Reflect Continued Strength

The Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said that residential construction activity plummeted in February, falling 17.0 percent. New housing starts declined from an annualized 1,081,000 in January to 897,000 in February. This was the slowest pace of housing starts since January 2014. Perhaps coincidently, that month was marred by a number of winter storms which were significant enough to lessen GDP and overall economic activity. This most recent report likely suffered from the same thing, particularly with major snowstorms in the Northeast and the Midwest, with starts in those two regions down 56.5 percent and 37.0 percent in February, respectively. Starts in the West were also weak, down 18.2 percent for the month. (continue reading…)

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A Fight Worth Having

Unless or until it’s stopped, the National Labor Relations Board regulation that denies employees time to consider whether to join a union by putting union elections on an inappropriately fast track will go into effect on April 14th. This is troubling to manufacturers because there is scant evidence anywhere that the union election process needs to be sped up at all and the regulation would force employers to turn over closely guarded personal information such as an employee’s cell phone number and work schedule. (continue reading…)

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A Sustainable Fix

For those of us in the healthcare policy field in Washington it has become as ritualistic as the changing of the seasons, the anticipation of the Masters Tournament in April or opening day in Major League Baseball – it’s known as “The Doc Fix.” For over a decade now, Congress has gone through the process of staving off reductions in payments to physicians under the Medicare program. Unfortunately, each year it does so, it gets more expensive to fix it permanently. It’s officially known as the sustainable growth rate (SGR) and the only thing sustainable about the growth rate in this instance is the frustration level most Members of Congress feel about having to go through this rite of passage every year or two. So, it is with great expectation and hope among many in Washington that we find ourselves nearing an agreement on a permanent solution to the madness we put ourselves through with too much regularity. (continue reading…)

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NY Fed: Manufacturers Expanded in March, but at a Slower Pace

The Empire State Manufacturing Survey reported expansion in the sector for the third straight month in the district, but at a slower pace. The composite index of general business conditions from the New York Federal Reserve Bank has declined from 10.0 in January to 7.8 in February to 6.9 in March. The underlying data suggest a mixed picture for the sector. The pace of shipments (down from 14.1 to 7.9) eased for the month, but continued to grow at a decent rate. In contrast, growth in new orders (down from 1.2 to -2.4) slipped into negative territory. Roughly one-quarter of survey respondents said that their orders had increased for the month, with 27.5 percent noting declines. As such, these data mirror other indicators which reflect current headwinds in the economy. (continue reading…)

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