The Manufacturing Downturn Compared to 2014-16

In 2014-16, production and non-supervisory employment continued to rise even as hours and production declined. In 2018-19 (as discussed here), all three have declined relative to peak.

Figure 1: Manufacturing employment – production and nonsupervisory workers (blue), aggregate hours (teal), manufacturing production (red), in logs 2014M11=0. Source: BLS, Federal Reserve Board, via FRED, and author’s calculations.

28 thoughts on “The Manufacturing Downturn Compared to 2014-16

  1. pgl

    Oh my – three economic series considered in one chart. This assuredly be WAY OVER the head of Single Statistic Bruce “no relationship to Robert” Hall!

  2. Bruce Hall

    Perhaps we should go back to FRED.

    Q1 2014 = 102.56
    Q4 2016 = 103.57

    Q1 2017 = 104.33
    Q2 2019 = 107.72

    You’ll note that I used Menzie’s timeframe (2014-16) compared with Trump’s (2017-present)

    Yes, there has been a decline since Q4 2018 when the index stood at 109.04, but if we look at Q4 2014 (104.17) and compare that with Q2 2015 (102.98) we see a similar decline.

    Sometimes anticipation (hiring fewer people) is tempered by reality (production flattens/declines); sometimes anticipation (hiring more people despite flat production) is tempered by reality (knowing that a new administration is coming). In either case, employment trends are not necessarily good indicators of industrial output.

    1. pgl

      First of all – Single Statistic Bruce “no relationship to Robert” Hall cannot get past his favorite little favorite single statistics. OK Bruce – we know you are THAT stupid. But this dishonest? Under Obama this single statistic went from 89 to 104 if you actually “go back” to FRED.

      While you are being your usual lying Trump sycophant – repeat over and over – “no quid pro quo”. Never mind what Mick Mulvaney said in the afternoon – by the evening he said he never said it.

      1. Bruce Hall

        Let’s go back to FRED. Manufacturing came back quickly after the recession as it has done in prior recessions, but then flattened out and declined during Obama’s second term. That “spring back” effect is not unexpected as consumer spending resumes and businesses are willing to bet on expansion. The real question is why was there a flat/declining trend between 2014-16? Bad policies? Or just that there are fluctuations in manufacturing because the U.S. manufacturers supply more than just the U.S. market and are affected by international buyers?

        Between 1Q 2017 and 4Q 2018, the manufacturing index rose from 104.2 to 109.0 … almost 5 points in two years. The only period Obama did better than that was the first year in office during the “spring back” period which could be attributed to throwing almost a trillion dollars at the economy… not a sustainable approach.

        BTW, I have had another good laugh with Hillary’s “the Russians are coming, the Russians are coming” reprise of Mueller et al. I’m sure Major/Representative Tulsi Gabbard appreciates being caught up by that lying sycophant continuing the stupidest political strategy of the century.

        1. pgl

          Two years of decent growth? Hey Brucie – I bet you are one of those idiots during a 10K run that goes out at a 5 minute a mile pace only to die before he gets much past the one-mile marker. By the time you get to the halfway point, even granny is passing you! A two year economic miracle – God you are dumber than your idol (Trump).

        2. pgl

          I love it how Bruce Hall cherry picks this series:

          Yea – it was up a bit for a couple of years after Trump took office. Brucie must be Mr. Magoo as he thinks it was falling throughout Obama’s latter years. Let’s see 102.4 as of 2016QII but 105.3 a year later. Now I would not call this a growth miracle at all but by Bruce Hall’s standards it is. Of course he is either too blind to see it or too dishonest to admit it. But then that is how cherry pickers work!

        3. pgl

          “The only period Obama did better than that was the first year in office during the “spring back” period which could be attributed to throwing almost a trillion dollars at the economy… not a sustainable approach.”

          Now this would be a DUMB statement even for a Tea Party moron. Way to go Brucie – prove once again you are the most clueless person when it comes to macroeconomics EVER!

    2. pgl

      “employment trends are not necessarily good indicators of industrial output.”

      Lord – how desperate can you get to defend the Liar in Chief? You could have written for the National Review some 15 years ago. Too bad that even this lying rag has upped its game since then!

        1. pgl

          I read the whole comment but this line just left me falling on the floor. BTW – can you handle more than one economic statistic at a time? Wait – that was answered a long time ago. No you cannot.

  3. Moses Herzog

    Does anyone here remember that I had said back in 2016 that the only Republican I would consider voting for is John Kasich?? I’m not 100% certain I said that on this blog, but I do know I said it somewhere online. Be that as it may, this is what real leadership is, a rarity in the Republican party right now:

    If Kasich got the nomination, he is STILL the only Republican I would consider voting for (there may be other Republicans I would vote for but no one I can think of off the top of my head). He overdoes it on the Jesus stuff sometimes, but there’s worse things you can have in your character.

    Now let’s juxtapose with with another person, who similar to Mike Pence, similar to Mick Mulvaney, similar to Mitch McConnell, similar to Lindsey Graham, similar to Mike Pompeo, has no soul and no moral barometer. A man who I have ZERO respect for and have dogged on this site multiple times. Well, why do I dog him?? Because I am some bastard that just likes to scorn, denigrate, and cast aspersions on others?? Possibly…….. Actually no, I have a reason usually. Ask yourself how this editorial from about 3 weeks ago, relates to our current situation??

    With “commentary” and “insight” like that given by David Brooks a short 3 weeks ago, I ask the question “Who needs CoRev and Ed Hanson??”

    1. pgl

      Brooks could have been Al Capone’s defense attorney. Sure Al had many people killed but I want my whiskey so let him walk!

  4. Moses Herzog

    Well, on one side we have a lady who used the State Department as her personal cash register for a campaign that similar to Joe Biden’s was doomed from the beginning. On the other side, a 15+ year veteran of the U.S. Army, served in combat zones with commendations, and did military training during her campaign for President. Who seems right here??

    But see the beauty of it is, (and it once again shows the political ineptitude and tone deaf sensibilities of the worst political campaigner in modern history, only to be rivaled by Lindsey Graham) is that the person making the accusations is so deeply and expansively hated by Americans, she just gave the greatest political kiss and backwind that the “Russian operative” couldn’t have dreamt up in her best dream.

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Moses Herzog: You keep on harping on how many people hated Hilary Clinton. Didn’t Hilary Clinton win 3 mn more votes than Donald Trump? Imagine if there hadn’t been a concerted disinformation campaign by the Russians.

      1. Moses Herzog

        @ Menzie
        Your question is a fair question, I’ll preface it, saying it’s a very fair question. And I hope an earnest one. Also let me preface the answer to your question by stating I do NOT argue the Russian disinformation effort was a real and tangible thing. But….. here is my subjective yet viable take on that question. You’re (largely) assuming that all those people (or 98% of them) who are swayed by the Russian disinformation, wouldn’t have voted for donald trump either way. Or didn’t already have a strong dislike of Hillary Clinton either way (sans Russian Hillary bashing). The donald trump voters are/were predisposed to consume information from certain media sources to begin with. This is a very near equivalent of saying “If Billy Bob Bocephus, non-high school grad raised in rural Alabama, hadn’t caught that David Duke speech in Mobile Alabama back in 1989, he never would have gone racist”.

        What people often forget is—they assume there are only two schools of thought— Group 1 Pro-Hillary voters who say that Russian disinformation had a significant impact. Group 2 Pro-Trump voters who say there was NO Russian disinformation.

        I belong to a 3rd (largely non-recognized) group ok?? I do not deny the Russian disinformation campaign. What I do deny is its actual impact on changing voters’ actions at the ballot box, they were already predisposed to making before the first $1 the Russian government paid Facebook, or the first Russian bot made a comment on Twitter.

        If you tell me there weren’t already a LARGE number of Hillary haters before the Russian disinformation campaign started, I’m going to have to ask you what city you have been teaching from for your internet correspondence course which beams to Madison, Wisconsin?? Because I know if you had enough in your state to vote for Scott Walker, you saw some Hillary haters around town, pre-2015.

        1. Moses Herzog

          May I also add, tagged along with a small prayer for non-filtering of—Oh my God!!! Criticism of any female who threw her hat into politics. Eeeewwww!!! Will these “strong women” be able to survive vicious “Anonymous Dude’s” barrage of internet attacks online?!?!?!? Oh God I hope so, because they would never face something like that as national leaders…… Uuuuuhh, Some of this is Democrats shooting themselves in their own foot—– See: DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Neera Tanden, etc

          What you (seemingly) forget is—The Russians may have hacked those emails–but you know the sad thing for Hillary??? The Russians did not WRITE those emails. Funny how that works, eh??

          1. Menzie Chinn Post author

            Moses Herzog: (1) In my view, there is no need to make reference to witches cabals in order to make your point. (2) Regarding emails – you have read about the State Department’s latest report, haven’t you?

          2. Barkley Rosser


            Right. The only female running for president you support is one with a long record of massive homophobia, who wants to restrict womens’ right to an abortion, and who in the last Dem debate repeatedly suggested that the combined US-SDF effort to defeat ISIS/ISIL/Daesh was a “regime change war” that it is OK to stop with a Turkish invasion pushing displacing and killing large numbers of people while letting large numbers of captured ISIS/ISIL/Daesh fighters loose.

            BTW, that third group you identified belonging with looks to be a collection of total idiots.

          3. Barkley Rosser

            BTW, I think Clinton’s recent rremarks about Gabbard were quite silly. She should have kept her mouth shut. All she has done is make it more likely we shall have this disgusting homophobic liar around for more debates.

            HRC was quite populat at one point, shortly before she started running for president. As of the latest reading she has only a 29 percent positive rating. She should just keep quiet.

          4. Moses Herzog

            @ Menzie
            The DHS report that came out around late July?? Mueller’s Justice Department report?? I have read large portions of the Justice Department Report, but not the DHS report. I am going to be honest with you and tell you I have very little motivation to read the DHS Report. I’m not shrugging off your point, which is a solid argument, but my (yes subjective) take on it is it may have effected some areas, but not enough for your 3 million, and not enough to tip an election. If some very small municipalities had their system tied to the internet they may have been effected. I can tell you our state’s elections were not effected at all by the GRU attacks—largely because it’s an “old school” system that is not connected to the internet. The old fashioned way of doing it, in this case actually made the election system more secure—as it’s connecting the election vote count to the wider internet where the danger of election interference rises dramatically.

            I don’t doubt the GRU did some very bad things, threatening to America. But if you look at the Wikileaks stories, I view those as a badly needed cleansing of the DNC. If there’s nothing negative in those emails, they don’t change people’s vote. The reason they change people’s votes is people see the immorality and corruption in the hacked emails—GRU revealed those emails, the GRU did not write them.

            As far as my criticism of people in the DNC, I actually like your usage of the term “cabal” because it seems to fit this email very accurately:


            People’s thoughts of the DNC, affects their motivation to vote. If people view the DNC as either unfair to their candidate, unfair to the entire batch of candidates, or the way the DNC handles (manipulates??) the nomination process is unfair/corrupt, they are much less likely to go out and vote. That means naming and exposing bad actors in the DNC is a part of judging an election process. Yes Menzie, even when those bad actors are [ gasp!!!! ] —-females.

            I’m happy to show you the Wasserman Schultz portion of the cabal as well. Let me know if you need that. You know the most horrible thing about criticizing the DNC is Menzie?? When a person (me in this case) criticizes them, you have to NAME NAMES, even if they are females. Isn’t that horrid an awful on my part?? I feel guilty now I called out some females in the DNC for being rotten to their core. Wait a minute….. not really.

          5. Moses Herzog

            @ Menzie
            Menzie, with all due respect, and realize I would never “tase a bro”, but I got one of my infamous smart-A– answers for that. Are you ready??

            Why don’t you do something illegal tomorrow morning related to leaving proprietary information owned by the University of Wisconsin–Madison where it can be absconded with (possibly a metro transport bus, be creative now), and as your criminal case proceeds you tell them “It wasn’t deliberate” and then get back to me on how that goes for you, would you?? Or better yet, have one of your friends with a law degree from Yale try that same stunt out where he/she says “It wasn’t deliberate” and have him get back to us on how that all turns out. Will yeh??

  5. New Deal democrat

    I respectfully disagree. Note that employment growth in manufacturing did peak about 12 months later in 2016, and about 2 months later this year.

    This follows the pattern since 1985, by which production slightly leads production employment. Here is a link to a FRED graph comparing the two:

    If anything, 2016 is the outlier in that the lag was delayed longer.

    I don’t see any differences in series Manemp or in aggregate manufacturing hours different now vs. 2015-16.

    1. pgl

      Nice use of FRED. You just demolished the latest nonsense from Single Statistic Bruce “no relationship to Robert” Hall but he is not going to get it. You see – you are being very unfair in considering two series at the same time. WAY OVER his head!

  6. New Deal democrat

    Following up on my prior comment, since 1983 it has normally taken just a slowdown in manufacturing growth to lead to an actual downturn in manufacturing employment. By my count there have been 7 such occasions, not counting recessions or the present. 2015-16 was the outlier, in that there was an actual downturn well before the downturn in employment began.

    That the present pattern is consistent with 7 non-recessionary slowdowns in the past 35 years doesn’t seem to help a recession hypothesis.

    1. pgl

      “That the present pattern is consistent with 7 non-recessionary slowdowns in the past 35 years doesn’t seem to help a recession hypothesis.”

      Query – who joked “The stock market has predicted nine of the past five recessions”? Paul Samuelson of course!

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