Manufacturing is making the news again, but this time, it’s a little different. Rather than announcing a new rule or regulation, the Trump administration is expected to announce a plan to reduce manufacturing requirements with a plan to strengthen industry growth.
While numbers haven’t yet bounced back from pre-Great-Recession levels, manufacturing jobs make up 8.5% of industrial employment in the U.S., and the industry “generates $1.40 in economic activity for every dollar put in.” The number of manufacturing jobs is also increasing in 52 of the 70 biggest metropolitan areas in the country. With these positive changes already underway, why is the government focusing on the push for growth?
Manufacturing interest groups and company leaders submitted public comments to the United States Commerce Department, many of which focused on streamlining redundant Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, according to the CNBC article. Manufacturers brought issue to the Clean Air Act, which sets air quality standards, as its permitting rules constrain their ability to build new facilities.
They also commented on the Operational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)’s crystalline silica and beryllium regulations. While these regulations set safety standards for workers, protecting them from carcinogenic beryllium and silica, the groups and companies consider them to also set costs too high. They say the rules prohibit growth due to expenditure and the time it takes to implement the equipment and products necessary to meet regulations.
Some industry insiders are concerned Commerce Department members may cut rules that benefit and protect the environment, consumers, and manufacturing employees in favor of reducing burdens on manufacturers and allowing faster time to achieve permits. Still, the National Association of Manufacturers established in 2012 that federal regulations, such as those it’s now rallying its members against, cost firms money and affect small businesses more. Additionally, according to the Center for Manufacturing Research, “Dollars spent by manufacturers on regulatory compliance for cumbersome or duplicative regulations are dollars not spent on capital investment or hiring new employees.”
As U.S. manufacturing has grown 11% since 2003, productivity has also increased, but automation “has displaced some workers.” Will the Department of Commerce’s regulation changes allow manufacturers to hire additional workers to further increase productivity and strengthen the industry? Only time will tell.