Feb 17, 2017

The facts on Trump's claims of U.S. manufacturing decline

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

President Trump spoke a lot about America's manufacturing sector during an appearance today at a Boeing plant in South Carolina.

His message: U.S. manufacturing has been on the decline, but now it's coming back thanks to the Trump presidency. It's far too early to analyze the second half of Trump's message, but we do have data on the first half, and it's mixed:

Manufacturing jobs: The levels fell pretty drastically between 2000 and 2009, although they subsequently leveled off and even climbed a bit. The most recent unemployment rate in the manufacturing sector was 4.2%, which is lower than the overall unemployment rate of 4.9%. For context, manufacturing unemployment spiked at 13% in January 2010, easily topping the broader figure of 9.8%.

Manufacturing output: U.S. manufacturing output (i.e., the number of things produced) hit an all-time high in Q4 2016, just beating out a previous high from Q1 2008. Also at a high is manufacturing output per worker hours, which has been on a steady rise, outside of a downward blip during the Great Recession.

Takeaway: America is making more than ever before, but needs fewer people to do it. It's a trend that is likely to accelerate, regardless of Trump's policies, as manufacturers employ more advanced automation technologies.

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America's rundown roads add to farmers' struggles

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

American farmers are struggling to safely use the roads that cut through their fields; decades of neglect and lack of funding have made the routes dangerous.

The big picture: President Trump has long promised to invest billions in rural infrastructure, and his latest proposal would allocate $1 trillion for such projects. Rural America, where many of Trump's supporters live, would see a large chunk of that money.

South Korea and Italy see spikes in coronavirus cases

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus continues to spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting those are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the U.S. South Korea's confirmed cases jumped from 204 on Friday to 433 on Saturday, while Italy's case count rose from 3 to 62 as of Saturday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,362 people and infected more than 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel, Lebanon and Iran.

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Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins

Bernie Sanders rallies in Las Vegas, Nevada on Feb. 21. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Center-left think tank Third Way urgently called on the Democratic front-runners of the 2020 presidential election to challenge Sen. Bernie Sanders on the South Carolina debate stage on Feb. 25, in a memo provided to Axios' Mike Allen on Saturday.

What they're saying: "At the Las Vegas debate ... you declined to really challenge Senator Sanders. If you repeat this strategy at the South Carolina debate this week, you could hand the nomination to Sanders, likely dooming the Democratic Party — and the nation — to Trump and sweeping down-ballot Republican victories in November."