With a recession so far failing to materialize and inflation showing signs of weakening, manufacturers may begin to grow less wary about the economy. Recent data suggests that despite continuing risks, the bright spots may win the day.

Growth: GDP grew at a 2.4% annual rate in the second quarter of 2023, according to data released this morning. This number is notably higher than the 2.0% growth that analysts had expected for the quarter.

Employment: The overall employment rate sits at a very low 3.6%, defying expectations that the Fed’s inflation-reduction moves might create a surge in unemployment. Meanwhile, women in particular are enjoying an employment renaissance, including in manufacturing.

  • Manufacturing had about 3,786,000 female employees in June, meaning that women made up 29.1% of the industry’s workforce, according to NAM Chief Economist Chad Moutray.
  • That number is just slightly lower than the 3,788,000 found in May, which was the highest number of female workers in manufacturing since September 2009.

Wages: At the same time that overall economic strength is growing, the United States is also seeing positive signs in wage inequality, with average income for the lowest-earning 50% of Americans increasing  faster than all other population groups except for the ultra-wealthy.

Inflation: Inflation has been a significant pain point for manufacturers, but it now seems to be moderating. According to the latest Consumer Price Index data, inflation rose 3% in June from a year earlier—a big drop from the whopping 9.1% annual inflation rate in June 2022.

The last word: “Real GDP data suggests that while demand and output in the manufacturing sector remain challenged, there are other pockets of strength in the larger macroeconomy,” said Moutray.

  • “The Federal Reserve is working to navigate a ‘soft landing’—something that is possible, even as recession risks continue to permeate the conversation.”