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Manufacturing news: 3 positive signs

Recent news contained three positive signs for manufacturing: Better employment trends, encouragement for the viability of engineering as a profession, and a more positive in economic outlook.

February 11, 2010

Recent news contained three positive signs for manufacturing: Better employment trends, encouragement for the viability of engineering as a profession, and a more positive economic outlook. Reports came from the Conference Board, IEEE , and NEMA , in recent releases. Details follow.

Conference Board Employment Trends Index (ETI) continues to improve

The Conference Board Employment Trends Index (ETI) rose in January for the fifth consecutive month, the organization reported Feb. 8. The index now stands at 93.2, up 1% from December’s 92.3%, but still down 0.7% compared to January 2009.

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"The continued rise in the ETI makes us more optimistic that job growth will resume in the first quarter of 2010," said Gad Levanon, associate director, macroeconomic research at The Conference Board. "The improvement is widespread across all eight components. In particular, Friday’s large decline in the number of involuntary part-time workers was the first time this component showed a strong signal of improvement."

January’s rise in the ETI was driven by positive contributions from six of its eight components: Percentage of Respondents Who Say They Find "Jobs Hard to Get," Number of Temporary Employees, Part-Time Workers for Economic Reasons, Job Openings, Industrial Production, and Real Manufacturing and Trade Sales.

The Employment Trends Index aggregates eight labor-market indicators, each of which has proven accurate in its own area. Aggregating individual indicators into a composite index filters out so-called "noise" to show underlying trends more clearly.
More information from the association is available at

New IEEE-USA president: Positive role of engineering is top priority for 2010

Evelyn H. Hirt, who became IEEE-USA president Jan. 1, has identified advancing the viability and contributions of the profession as her top priority in 2010, IEEE said in a Feb. 5 statement. Her concerns encompass the need for recognition of the significant role played by engineers in powering the U.S. economy, and for science, engineering and technical literacy to fuel the creation of future engineers and technical professionals, the organization said.

IEEE: Engineering job creation priority

Engineering job creation is particularly important in light of recent statistics from the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, IEEE said. Job losses across all engineering disciplines, according to the agency, totaled 76,000 in 2009 vs. the previous year. Among electrical and electronics engineers, employment fell by 36,000. The number of working computer professionals dropped 198,000 in 2009 vs. 2008. These figures include software engineers, whose job losses totaled 82,000 year over year; and computer scientists and systems analysts, who saw 78,000 jobs disappear.

"Engineers create jobs by providing systems, products and services through the application of mathematical and scientific principles to practical ends," Hirt said. "It is this practical application that helps fuel the economy by furthering industrial and commercial objectives in advancing the design, construction and operation of economical and efficient structures, equipment and systems."

Hirt, who lives in Richland, WA, succeeds Dr. Gordon Day of Boulder, CO. Day is serving as IEEE-USA’s past president in 2010 and Ron Jensen of Rochester, MN, is the organization’s president-elect.

Hirt said a technically literate workforce, particularly among the young, as being essential to advancing U.S. competitiveness in the 21st century.

"If young people lack recognition of the significant role played by engineers and technical professionals, and without an attractive job market, they will not be motivated to pursue engineering and technical careers," she said. "Similarly, existing engineers and high-tech professionals will be drawn away from their current careers voluntarily or involuntarily. This will be compounded if individuals lack the science, engineering and technical literacy to obtain the required advanced education or deal with changes in technology trends to meet current demands, should their career motivation change.

"However, we need to think beyond the concept that science, engineering and technical literacy is only for those going on for advanced education or planning a technically demanding career. This literacy is an essential part of powering productive sectors of a global economy and strengthening U.S. competitiveness."
IEEE-USA’s public policy priorities job-creating potential and carry the promise of making technical careers more appealing:
– Build the nation’s Smart Grid, which has the potential to create jobs similar to the way the Internet did.
– Universal availability of high-speed broadband;
– Patent reform;
– Electronic health records;
– Cybersecurity; and
– More research into alternative energy resources.

"Putting engineers and computer professionals back to work will help power the U.S. economy," Hirt said. "They will foster technological breakthroughs and engineering solutions to meet the great challenges facing our country and help create opportunities throughout the workforce."

NEMA Business Confidence Indexes show positive 2010 results

NEMA Electroindustry Business Confidence Index (EBCI) for current North American conditions rebounded in January, rising nearly 9 points to 57.1, NEMA reported Jan. 27. The index is derived from responses to a survey circulated to executives of NEMA member companies, and a value above 50 indicates that more respondents reported that the business environment improved from the previous month than reported that it worsened. NEMA said the index fell below 50 in December for the first time in five months, but this latest reading suggests that the modest improvements in conditions that characterized much of the second half of 2009 have persisted into early 2010.

Moreover, NEMA said, the EBCI for future North American conditions pushed further upward in January while posting its second consecutive monthly gain. Rising 14.3 points to 78.6, the index recorded an eleventh straight reading above 50, and reached its highest level since December 2004. This result reflects widespread sentiment that business conditions will improve over the next six months.

– Edited by Mark T. Hoske, editor in chief, Control Engineering ,