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Posted on Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 2:20 p.m.

American manufacturers shrink trade gap for first time in years

By Ben Freed

The United States imported $225 billion more in manufactured goods than it exported in the first half of 2013.

That may not seem like great news, but according to a Wall Street Journal report, the number is down from $227 billion a year ago, a small but meaningful improvement.


Much of Michigan's manufacturing economy is tied to the success of the automotive industry, which has been experiencing a rebound of its own recently.

Robert Chase | Ann Arbor News

The findings, which come from data compiled by an economist at the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation, show a leveling off in the trade deficit that had grown significantly over the past several years. According to the journal report, the Boston Consulting Group has predicted that this is the beginning of a surge in American exports thanks in part to lower energy costs and stagnating wages.

The extremely optimistic Boston Consulting Group report released Tuesday said that returning manufacturing jobs could reduce the 7.4 percent national unemployment rate by as much as two to three percentage points.

An Information Technology & Innovation Foundation report released in June found that after losing 46.7 of its manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2010, Michigan has led the nation in manufacturing job creation this decade.

Washtenaw County is home to approximately 14,000 manufacturing jobs, and an economic forecast prepared by University of Michigan economists Donald Grimes and George Fulton predicted a 712 job increase in the sector through 2015.

Ben Freed covers business for You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Get in touch with Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2



Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 1:50 p.m.

Regardless of any good news about our economy, we can always look forward to Sky is falling posts here on .com! Unemployment down to 7.6 from 10.4%? must be bad news somewhere. My manufacturing business is thriving! If yours is not, get off your buttocks and make it happen, stop blaming the government or newspapers for your problems.

Ben Freed

Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 2:21 p.m.

Hi clownfish, I'm not sure what bad news you are gleaning from the story. I'm glad to hear that your manufacturing business is thriving, I'm sure it's part of the reversal of the trade gap. Do you export many of your products? Ben


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 12:37 p.m.

I find it hard to believe that such a small difference is so significant. I don't know how this data is collected, but it would seem to me that a difference of less than 1% is within the margin of error. Also, as far as jobs go, what's more important than the difference between imports and exports is the increase in manufacturing activity. So, in sum, what we have here is the typical under-reported A2.Com story.


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 3:54 p.m.

Mr-AA: the figure is part of a trend. With flat wages in the US, inflating wages overseas and the wave of new O&G supplies in the US this trend may continue with significant impacts on America.

Ben Freed

Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 2:25 p.m.

mr_annarbor, As stated in the story, simply the fact that the difference is small is what is significant here. The trade gap had been growing by large amounts (well outside the margin of error) and the fact that it is now shrinking (albeit slightly) is the story. While we certainly will do more reporting on manufacturing activity in the county, employment levels are one way of measuring economic activity.


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 12:26 p.m.

I find it deliciously ironic that the photograph used in this article is directly from a 2010 article describing the end of fascia production at ACH's Milan Plastics plant and either the displacement or elimination of the UAW jobs. couldn't find a more appropriate photograph to use?


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 10:48 p.m.

A long way to go before good paying manufacturing jobs become available for the masses seeking employment. The good old days will never return. Here's to WalMart and McDonalds!


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 10:05 p.m.

Wonder why your wages are flat? Interested in why your neighbors are unemployed or under-employed? Re-read the article. The good news is that the US out-gassing of manufacturing jobs may finally be leveling off. (Please don't Reply with "everyone should be a software engineer!". There is a significant portion of our population who are not suited for those high-tech jobs. And they do deserve an opportunity to support themselves.)