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Focus: Manufacturing

Feature Article from Our Manufacturing Subject Area - See All

From SCDigest's On-Target E-Magazine

- Sept. 15, 2014 -

 
Supply Chain News: US Manufacturing Revival Still Hard to Find in the Data, as Imports Continue to Rise

 

Import Levels are Up Almost Across the Board; US Manufacturing Rival will be Real when Numbers Show It

 

SCDigest Editorial Staff

While anecdotal evidence of a resurgence in US manufacturing continues to come in, unfortunately it is not easy to find support for that trend yet in the numbers, though the fact that US manufacturing output finally surpassed peak 2007 levels in July is certainly a good sign. (See US Manufacturing Output at Last Makes it Back to Pre-Recession Levels.)

SCDigest Says:

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We wonder how many US consumers know that imports of meat products are up 20.7% this year, and that fish imports have risen 18%.

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One way to look at US manufacturing progress is through changes in import levels of manufactured and other goods, and here, signs of a manufacturing revival in the US are hard to find.

 

Through July of 2014, imports of goods into the US are up about $45 billion to some $1.36 trillion, an increase of about 3.4% over the same period in 2013. Obviously, in the event of a resurgence in US manufacturing, reshoring, etc., you would expect import levels to decline as a result, as more goods made here means less need for offshore imports.

 

Interestingly, total imports of goods in July 2013 were actually down about 1.2% versus 2012.

 

But that 2014 number would be a bit worse if not for the sharp rise in US energy production, mostly from fracking technology. That surge in energy production led to a decline in imports of crude oil of about $8.2 billion so far this year, and a decline of more than $3 billion in other petroleum-related products, both of which are included in the overall imported goods numbers.

 

The reduction in energy imports was also a big factor in the decline in imports through July in 2013 versus the previous year.

 

The Census Bureau organizes imported goods into five categories. Under each category is a lot of detail relative to imports of specific classes of goods and commodities, from "shingles and roofing materials" to "musical intruments."

 

As shown in the chart below, only one of the five main categories saw a drop in imports so far this year, and that was "industrial supplies and materials," down about 1%, but that is the group that includes energy as well as a number of other volatile commodity items.

 

Change in 2014 Import Levels through July by Primary Category

 

Trade Category Year-to-Date Year-to-Date 2013 Year-to-Date Change % Change
2014
Industrial supplies and materials
397,599
401,711
-4,112
-1.0%
Consumer goods
319,789
308,851
10,939
3.5%
Capital goods, except automotive
338,763
319,582
19,181
6.0%
Automotive vehicles, parts, and engines
189,327
176,289
13,038
7.4%
Foods, feeds, and beverages
72,918
66,984
5,934
8.9%
in $millions, meaning year to date imports of food are $72.9 billion
Source: SCDigest, from Census Bureau data

 

 

The other four categories saw a rise in imports, from a 3.5% jump in consumer goods to a sharp and perhaps surprising 8.9% increase in food and beverage imports.


(Manufacturing Article Continued Below)

 

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Learn More about Softeon's Innovative Supply Chain Solutions

 


Below, we present some detail underneath each of those categories of specific item types. The table below is not the complete list of items, but rather select items by category that had significant changes one way of the other through July.

 

It is important to note that there are a variety of factors that can impact changes to import levels of a particular item. Changes in prices up or down, for example, will affect the level of imports for the same number of "units." And the 15% decline in imports of "recorded media" no doubt reflects the impact of digital music and such on that market rather than a surge in US production in that category.

 

Note there is no detail under the automotive category, so it is not included in the table below. Because there were so few categories where import levels went down (just 5 out of 32 items under the capital goods category, and 6 out of 30 in consumer goods), we included most of those items in the list even if the decline was small since each declining category does inded stand out.

 

Changes in Import Levels in 2014 by Select Item/Commodity Categories

 

Item 
Year-to-Date
2014
Year-to-Date
2013
Year-to-Date
Change
% Change
Foods, feeds, and beverages
 
 
 
 
Fruits, frozen juices
8,350
7,606
744
9.8%
Meat products
6,123
5,075
1,048
20.7%
Nuts
1,264
1,141
123
10.8%
Cane and beet sugar
1,025
916
109
11.9%
Cocoa beans
942
750
192
25.6%
Nonagricultural foods, etc.
595
480
115
24.0%
Fish and shellfish
12,039
10,130
1,909
18.8%
Food oils, oilseeds
4,372
3,704
668
18.0%
Industrial supplies and materials
 
 
 
 
Crude oil
151,984
160,251
-8,267
-5.2%
Nonmonetary gold
8,490
9,562
-1,072
-11.2%
Copper
2,984
4,359
-1,376
-31.5%
Iron and steel mill products
14,134
10,220
3,913
38.3%
Steelmaking materials
5,113
4,175
938
22.5%
Blank tapes, audio & visual
403
472
-69
-14.6%
Coal and related fuels
1,143
1,689
-547
-32.3%
Chemicals-fertilizers
8,540
9,781
-1,241
-12.7%
Natural rubber
1,233
1,561
-328
-21.0%
Leather and furs
434
393
41
10.4%
Chemicals-organic
16,658
15,405
1,253
8.1%
Nuclear fuel materials
1,962
2,356
-394
-16.7%
Gas-natural
7,869
6,019
1,850
30.7%
Petroleum products, other
25,933
29,050
-3,117
-10.7%
Capital goods, except automotive
 
 
 
 
Industrial machines, other
31,225
27,198
4,027
14.8%
Civilian aircraft
9,287
7,519
1,768
23.5%
Industrial engines
14,138
12,661
1,477
11.7%
Vessels, except scrap
6
10
-4
-40.0%
Commercial vessels, other
61
99
-38
-38.4%
Spacecraft, excluding military
55
30
25
83.3%
Computers
35,654
37,187
-1,533
-4.1%
Laboratory testing instruments
3,326
3,111
215
6.9%
Measuring, testing, control instruments
11,582
10,931
651
6.0%
Generators, accessories
13,361
12,342
1,019
8.3%
Railway transportation equipment
933
819
114
13.9%
Wood, glass, plastic
4,268
3,920
349
8.9%
Metalworking machine tools
6,408
6,660
-251
-3.8%
Agricultural machinery, equipment
6,182
5,668
513
9.1%
Drilling & oilfield equipment
5,465
5,561
-96
-1.7%
Medicinal equipment
19,744
18,902
842
4.5%
Materials handling equipment
8,746
7,823
922
11.8%
Consumer goods
 
 
 
 
Apparel, textiles, nonwool or cotton
25,742
24,031
1,712
7.1%
Pharmaceutical preparations
52,944
49,491
3,453
7.0%
Apparel, household goods-cotton
27,637
28,248
-610
-2.2%
Footwear
11,741
11,368
373
3.3%
Furniture, household goods, etc.
16,889
15,423
1,466
9.5%
Glassware, chinaware
1,403
1,276
127
10.0%
Motorcycles and parts
1,726
1,785
-58
-3.3%
Photo equipment
1,983
2,329
-346
-14.9%
Pleasure boats and motors
1,550
1,411
138
9.9%
Rugs
1,419
1,254
165
13.2%
Household appliances
14,112
13,134
977
7.4%
Televisions and video equipment
16,712
17,599
-887
-5.0%
Toys, games, and sporting goods
20,070
19,025
1,045
5.5%

 

 

We wonder how many US consumers know that imports of meat products are up 20.7% this year, and that fish imports have risen 18%.

 

While SCDigest is still bullish on US manufacturing, the revival will be real when the data says it is.

 

 

Any reaction to this data on US imports of goods? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.

Recent Feedback

As a consumer, I am a bit disturbed to see these numbers. According to main stream media, I have been under the impression that imports to the US were declining across the board; however, this article shows that is not the case. The main area of interest for me was the decrease in energy imports. With the fracking revolution, there is more oil available in the US, which decreases our dependence on foreign oil. As winter approaches, the effect of sanctions in Russia, restricting access to Western fracking technology and preventing US companies from supporting their exploration and production activities in the region, might cause a further decline in oil imports. It might even be the case that as the oil supply in Russia becomes more difficult to access, the US will start to export more refined oil products than seen historically. 


Alexandra Black
Student, Supply Chain Management
The University of Texas at Austin
Sep, 22 2014
 
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