As 2016 draws to a close, it does so with more than a bit of uncertainty. By many measures, the U.S. economy is in good shape, yet there appears to be some disconnect in getting that message out to the public.
With the November report showing a net gain of 178,000 jobs, the U.S. economy has shown job growth for a record 74 consecutive months, with the unemployment rate dropping to 4.6 percent.
Of course, there are many ways to look at numbers. Workers tend to see wages that have been stagnating, with the gap widening between employee pay and those among top management. That was one of the issues that President-elect Donald Trump made traction on during the presidential campaign.
Manufacturing jobs is another area where one set of numbers can bring multiple conclusions. President Obama says there have been more manufacturing jobs created during his presidency than anytime since the 1990s. Starting in March 2010—a month after manufacturing's low point during the Great Recession—there has been an increase of more than 800,000 manufacturing jobs.
But others will look at his record and say his presidency has seen a net loss of 95,000 manufacturing jobs since he took office, including losses during the recession, which was at its peak as Obama's first term began.
Light vehicle sales in the U.S. also can be interpreted in different fashions. Since bottoming out in 2009, the market rebounded with six consecutive years of growth, bringing sales in 2015 to a record 17.5 million. Most expected 2016 to bring at best a plateau. Strong sales in October and November, however, mean the industry has a chance to extend its streak to seven years, something that hasn't happened in a century. A closer look, though, shows incentives to pull in those buyers topped $10,000 a vehicle on some GM pickups and SUVs.
And that is the backdrop that leads the U.S. into 2017. During the campaign, Trump promised a much-needed boost to infrastructure spending, along with opposition to or renegotiation of free trade deals. As the nation transitions to its new leader, how a Trump presidency differs from his campaign will go a long way toward either stemming that uncertainty, or making for a shaky year ahead.
Meyer is editor of Rubber & Plastics News. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @bmeyerRPN.