Labor and Employment

To keep manufacturing an engine of the economy, we need labor policies that support flexibility and innovation.

Input Stories

Inflation Stayed Elevated in March

Inflation, as measured by the Federal Reserve’s preferred gauge, remained elevated last month (CNN).

What’s going on: “The Personal Consumption Expenditures price index … accelerated to 2.7% for the year ended in March. … That rate was above economists’ expectations for a 2.6% gain and landed above February’s reading of 2.5%.”

  • Prices increased 0.3% on a monthly basis, the same pace as in February.

Core PCE: So-called “core” PCE, which excludes often-volatile food and energy prices, remained steady at 2.8%.

Spending: Consumer spending stayed strong in March, rising 0.8% from February and exceeding economists’ expectations.

Policy and Legal

Noncompete Ban Would Disrupt Manufacturing in the U.S.

The Federal Trade Commission’s vote this week to prohibit noncompete agreements between employers and their employees threatens manufacturing in the U.S., the NAM said Tuesday.

What’s going on: In a 3–2 vote Tuesday, commissioners finalized a rule that, like a draft version circulated last year, “would deem practically any noncompete clauses for paid staff, independent contractors and unpaid workers to be an unfair method of competition rendered unenforceable, and [would require] employers to tell current and former employees they’ve stopped enforcing them” (Law360, subscription).

  • The final rule is set to go into effect 120 days after it is published in the Federal Register, but lawsuits have been filed against it already, and additional legal action is expected.

What’s changed: One change made to the final rule following the receipt of more than 26,000 comments on it allows existing noncompete agreements with senior-level executives to remain in effect.

  • Another difference between the rule’s prior iteration and the final is to the ban’s sole exception. The draft “permitted noncompetes for individuals selling their business or a substantial stake of at least 25%.” That threshold is not in the final version.

Why it’s problematic: The rule “is unprecedented and threatens manufacturers’ ability to attract and retain talent,” said NAM Managing Vice President of Policy Chris Netram.

  • “In addition, [it] puts at risk the security of intellectual property and trade secrets—anathema to an industry that accounts for 53% of all private-sector R&D.”
  • A noncompete ban would disrupt the majority of U.S. manufacturing operations, a 2023 NAM survey found.

What’s next: The NAM is considering all options in response to the final rule and is in active discussion with congressional leadership and the relevant committees of jurisdiction.

Policy and Legal

New Overtime Rule Will Cost Employers and Workers

A new final overtime rule from the U.S. Department of Labor will reduce flexibility for employees and could force manufacturers to make difficult choices about their workforces, the NAM said Tuesday.

What’s going on: The new regulation “changes the salary threshold used to determine whether a worker is exempt from overtime pay” so that, beginning Jan. 1, 2025, most employees earning less than $58,656 will be owed time-and-a-half wages for hours worked over 40 in a single workweek (Bloomberg Law, subscription).

  • The current salary threshold is $35,568.
  • The new rule will go into effect July 1, following publication in the Federal Register.

Why it’s problematic: The change promises to present significant challenges to employers and employees alike.

  • “Quarter after quarter, manufacturers cite workforce issues, such as attracting and retaining skilled employees, as their biggest business challenge,” said NAM Managing Vice President of Policy Chris Netram. The “rule places new constraints on employers, reduces flexibility for the workers who will be reclassified and may force companies to make painful choices that limit both job creation and growth opportunities available to employees.”

What’s next: The NAM is weighing all actions to protect manufacturers across the country.
​​​​​​​

Press Releases

Manufacturers: Noncompete Decision Threatens Manufacturers’ Ability to Protect IP

Washington, D.C. – Following the Federal Trade Commission’s vote in favor of a rule that would prohibit employers and their employees from entering noncompete agreements, National Association of Manufacturers Managing Vice President of Policy Chris Netram released the following statement:

“The FTC’s rule banning noncompete agreements is unprecedented and threatens manufacturers’ ability to attract and retain talent. In addition, today’s action puts at risk the security of intellectual property and trade secrets—anathema to an industry that accounts for 53% of all private-sector R&D.

“An NAM survey found that 66% of respondents—manufacturers of all sizes—said the ban would interfere with their operations, and nearly half said it would impact employee training programs. The ban could force manufacturers to revamp their human capital operations completely, enact burdensome controls or silo parts of their operations from each other, which would result in less training for employees, less collaboration, less innovation and less efficiency. The NAM will weigh all options in response to the commission’s vote, so that well-paying manufacturing jobs and innovation are not compromised.”

-NAM-

The National Association of Manufacturers is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs nearly 13 million men and women, contributes $2.89 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and accounts for 53% of private-sector research and development. The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States. For more information about the NAM or to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org.

Press Releases

Manufacturers: DOL Overtime Rule Will Exacerbate Workforce Crisis

Washington, D.C. – Following the release of the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division rule concerning updates to the overtime regulations, National Association of Manufacturers Managing Vice President of Policy Chris Netram released the following statement:

Quarter after quarter, manufacturers cite workforce issues, such as attracting and retaining skilled employees, as their biggest business challenge. Yet today’s rule places new constraints on employers, reduces flexibility for the workers who will be reclassified and may force companies to make painful choices that limit both job creation and growth opportunities available to employees. In addition, this latest regulatory hurdle will complicate manufacturers’ efforts to fill the millions of jobs our industry is projected to create within a decade.”

-NAM-

The National Association of Manufacturers is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs nearly 13 million men and women, contributes $2.89 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and accounts for 53% of private-sector research and development. The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States. For more information about the NAM or to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org.

Input Stories

Manufacturing Output Slows


Manufacturing output slowed in April, according to index provider S&P Global.

What’s going on: While overall business activity continued to grow this month—albeit at a slower pace—manufacturing growth eased.

  • S&P Global’s Flash US Manufacturing PMI came in at 49.9, a four-month low and down from March’s 51.9.
  • Any number below 50 indicates contraction.

Why it’s happening: The decline in orders can be linked “to inflationary pressures, weak demand and sufficient stock holdings at customers.”

However … Employment in manufacturing in April rose modestly.

What it means: “[T]he drivers of inflation have changed,” said S&P Global Market Intelligence Chief Business Economist Chris Williamson. “Manufacturing has now registered the steeper rate of price increases in three of the past four months, with
factory cost pressures intensifying in April amid higher raw material and fuel prices.”

Press Releases

Manufacturers: Unprecedented Use of CERCLA Authority Will Hamper President’s Manufacturing Vision

Washington, D.C. – Following the release of the Environmental Protection Agency’s rule designating perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, also known as PFOS, and perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as PFOA, as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, National Association of Manufacturers Managing Vice President of Policy Chris Netram released the following statement:

“Manufacturers support efforts to mitigate harmful chemicals from impacting our environment and the health of our nation, but this unprecedented use of CERCLA authority by the EPA will only hamper President Biden’s vision of growing the manufacturing sector in the U.S. The unique and unmatched chemical bond of these compounds means that there are no existing replacements for the critical products they make up.

“The NAM is not opposed to commonsense regulations of PFAS chemicals, and manufacturers are committed to environmental stewardship, while recognizing in many cases we will need to continue to use these chemicals for the foreseeable future. However, designating these compounds as hazardous substances is a blunt, overreaching decision that will make it harder for our industry to create innovative products and jobs.”

-NAM-

The National Association of Manufacturers is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs nearly 13 million men and women, contributes $2.89 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and accounts for 53% of private-sector research and development. The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States. For more information about the NAM or to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org.

Input Stories

FTC to Unveil, Vote on Noncompete Ban Next Week

The Federal Trade Commission will vote next week on the final version of a rule that would prohibit noncompete agreements between employers and their employees, Law360 (subscription) reports.

What’s going on: “According to the FTC’s announcement, the agency’s five commissioners will vote April 23 on whether to ‘authorize public disclosure of the proposed final rule,’ first unveiled in draft form in January 2023. Assuming a vote in the affirmative, staffers will give a presentation on the rule, followed by a second vote to issue the rule in its final form.”

  • The agency did not indicate which, if any, changes it has made to the previous version of the rule.
  • The FTC received more than 26,000 comments on the rule during the 90-day public comment period.

Why it’s important: A noncompete ban would cause disruption to the majority of manufacturing operations in the U.S., a 2023 NAM survey found.

  • Some 70% of manufacturers in the U.S. use noncompete agreements, and they do so to safeguard intellectual property, sales information, industrial processes and business strategies.
  • Approximately 66% of survey respondents—representing manufacturers of all sizes—said a ban would interfere with their operations.
  • Around 50% of those polled said a ban would have a negative effect on their investment in employee training programs.

The NAM says: “The FTC’s proposed rule severely threatens manufacturers’ ability to protect intellectual property and responsibly invest in their employees,” said NAM Director of Transportation, Infrastructure and Labor Policy Max Hyman.

  • “The NAM remains engaged on this critical issue for our members and will weigh our options in response to the commission’s vote next week.”
Input Stories

Manufacturers Face Significant Cost Increases if Tax Bill Fails


U.S. manufacturers and other businesses are sharing the details of the potential economic fallout if Congress fails to pass NAM-supported, pro-growth tax legislation, The Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports.

What’s going on: “[L]arge public companies say the law as it stands is costing them hundreds of millions or billions of dollars, while some owners of small and medium-sized businesses say they wonder if their firms will survive.”

  • The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 allowed manufacturers across the U.S. to expand their businesses, hire and purchase new, much-needed equipment. But in 2022 and 2023, three critical provisions from the law—immediate expensing for domestic research and development, enhanced interest deductibility and full expensing—expired, hurting businesses of all sizes.
  • In January, the House passed the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act, which would reinstate all three measures. The NAM has been pushing the Senate to pass the legislation, too.

Why it’s important: Lift truck and solutions manufacturer Hyster-Yale Materials Handling Inc. “spends around $100 million a year on R&D, and the law change that went into effect in 2022 increased its tax bill by about $25 million a year.”

  • “So that’s $25 million less that I have to invest back into my business, whether it’s R&D, whether it’s plants and equipment [or] hiring new people,” Chief Financial Officer Scott Minder told the Journal.
  • Other companies say the lack of action on the House-cleared tax bill “may prompt reduced investment in other areas and increase the rate of return required for new projects.”

Weighing a move: Hyster-Yale—which “spends around 80% of its research budget in the U.S.”—would like to keep its operations in the U.S., Minder continued, but it can’t guarantee that it will continue to do so without the return of the expired TCJA tax provisions.

  • Other manufacturers are reporting a similar predicament.

​​​​​​​The last word: “The stakes are clear: Congress must pass the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act or risk significant economic damage across the manufacturing sector,” said NAM Vice President of Domestic Policy Charles Crain.

  • “Manufacturers are depending on Congress to restore these pro-growth tax policies, which support the investments in R&D and capital equipment that are so critical for manufacturing growth.”
Input Stories

U.S. Industrial Production Rises

U.S. industrial production increased modestly in March, in keeping with economist forecasts, according to baha.

What’s going on: “Industrial production in the United States rose by 0.4% in March after increasing 0.1% in the previous month, the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors stated in its report published on Tuesday.”

The details: Manufacturing output increased 0.5% on a monthly basis and 0.8% on an annual basis. It rose 1.2% in February.

  • Mining declined 1.4% in March and 2.0% year on year.
  • The utilities index grew 2.0% for the month but declined 3.1% year on year.

Capacity utilization: Capacity utilization—a measure of potential output—for the industrial sector as a whole increased to 78.4%, up from 78.2% in February but “1.2 percentage points below its long-run average.”

What it means: These data are among “signs that manufacturing is starting to pick up,” MarketWatch (subscription) reports.

  • “The S&P Global U.S. Manufacturing PMI has been in expansion territory for the past three months, and the ISM factory index was 50.3 in March, the first reading above the break-even level of 50 since September 2022.”
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