Local Governments Weigh In on Proposed Ozone Standards

The outcry over the EPA’s proposed ground-level ozone standards continues with representatives of the nation’s mayors, counties, cities and regions adding their voices to the debate in a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy this week.

In the letter dated March 17, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, National Association of Counties, National League of Cities, and National Association of Regional Councils, detail the impact the most expensive rule in U.S. history will have on local governments.  These four organizations collectively represent 19,000 cites and mayors, 3,069 counties and over 500 regional councils. (continue reading…)

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Leading Economic Indicators Reflect Modest Growth in February

The Conference Board said that the Leading Economic Index (LEI) rose 0.2 percent in February, the same pace as observed in January. However, this was slower than the stronger rate of growth experienced just four months ago, when the LEI increased by 0.6 percent in October. Weaknesses abroad, a stronger U.S. dollar, weather and factors have been headwinds on the U.S. economy, which continues to expand modestly but at a slower rate. This can be seen in the latest industrial production, housing starts and retail sales figures, for instance. Specific to the LEI, new orders have decelerated, providing a bit of a drag on the headline number. Other challenges included the average workweek and initial unemployment claims.    (continue reading…)

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Philly Fed: Modest Manufacturing Growth in the District in March

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia reported that manufacturing activity has expanding modestly in March. The composite index of general business activity edged marginally lower, down from 5.2 in February to 5.0 in March. Overall activity has been softer-than-desired in the first three months of 2015, averaging just 5.5; whereas, the composite index had averaged a more robust 18.6 for 2014 as a whole. Nonetheless, the Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey has now expanded for 13 straight months, and business leaders in the district remain relatively optimistic about the coming months. (continue reading…)

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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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