Jul 23, 2023 - Politics & Policy

South, Mountain West see manufacturing boom under Biden

Change in U.S. manufacturing jobs
Data: BLS; Note: May 2023 data is preliminary. Seasonally-adjusted estimates used; Map: Axios

A manufacturing boom has swept across the country in President Biden's 2½ years in office, with the South and Mountain West — including several red states — having especially strong growth, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Why it matters: The U.S. economy has added some 800,000 manufacturing jobs nationwide, a figure Biden hopes will boost his claim to have delivered on his promise to be a president — and create jobs — for all Americans.

By the numbers: Texas is the top state for new manufacturing jobs, with 86,000 new positions, from January 2021 to May 2023, according to BLS data.

  • Next comes California with 79,000 jobs; Florida with 37,000; Ohio with 31,000; and Georgia with 29,000.
  • Nevada had the greatest percentage increase at 15%, followed by Montana at 11% and Wyoming at 10%.

Driving the news: Biden traveled to a Philadelphia shipyard Thursday to try to persuade union workers that his spending on renewable energy will help the workers' bottom line — part of his broader push to convince a skeptical public that "Bidenomics" is working.

  • "When I think climate, I think jobs — union jobs," Biden said.
  • Trump countered that pitch in a video, saying, "If you want to have an auto industry, you need to defeat Joe Biden."

Between the lines: While touting his spending — and job growth — in red states, Biden also likes to needle Republicans for voting against most of his proposals.

  • On a trip to South Carolina last week, he teased a visit to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's district to help break ground on a new solar facility.

The big picture: The U.S. economy has defied expectations and continues to add jobs. An elusive soft landing to the Fed's aggressive rate hiking — in which inflation continues to decline without unemployment rising — now seems possible.

Yes, but: There are signs the manufacturing sector is slowing down, which could undercut a key component of Bidenomics.

  • The Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing gauge fell to 46% in June, its weakest reading since May 2020. Anything below 50 suggests contracting activity.
  • And in a June survey, manufacturers reported they were less optimistic about their company’s outlook than last quarter, with nearly 2/3 of respondents complaining about regulations.

Go deeper: Arizona and Georgia — states Biden flipped from former President Trump in 2020 — have added a higher percentage of manufacturing jobs than the national average of 6.4%.

  • Arizona has seen 16,000 new jobs for a 10% increase and Georgia's economy has added 40,000 jobs for a 7.5% increase.
  • In the three other states Biden won back for Democrats in 2020 — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — thousands of jobs have been added, but the percentage increase has not been as explosive as in the South and West.
  • Michigan has added 24,000 manufacturing jobs for a 4% increase. Pennsylvania has added 28,00 jobs for a 5% increase. Wisconsin has added 20,000 jobs for a 4% increase.

The bottom line: A healthy economy is the linchpin of Biden’s reelection strategy.

  • He needs the economy to keep adding them, especially in the states where the 2024 election is likely to be decided.
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