NEMA Economist Bullish on Trucking, Natural Gas

May 4, 2011
The U.S. economy is beyond recovery and actually into an expansion period, and manufacturing is leading the way. That’s the assessment of Don Leavens, chief economist for the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA,

Speaking at the ABB Power and Automation conference last month, Leavens said the U.S. is at its highest level of gross domestic production (GDP) in history, and that’s without some 5 million workers who are still unemployed.  This means productivity is real—and automation is critical. 

Why? Partially because India, China and parts of Russia are buying “high value” tech products from us, said Leavens.  So while we do see the demise of U.S. manufacturing based on employment—the usual metric in the popular press—the real story is U.S. productivity, he said.

So where does NEMA see strong growth in manufacturing in 2011 and 2012?  The strongest drivers include trucking (with the oldest fleet we’ve ever had), construction equipment (for export), industrial and electronic equipment, appliances and communications. Motors and controls have rebounded, but not quite back to their previous highs, he said.

Natural gas will be a real winner, according to Leavens, with prices remaining relatively stable. Wind energy, in his view, is not self-sustainable without government subsidies. 

National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA,

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