U.S. manufacturing companies set a record for new orders in 2017, a further sign of strong economic momentum, according to the Institute for Supply Management's Manufacturing Index.

In fact, gains in factory orders and production helped make it the strongest year for manufacturing since 2004.

December also marked the 103rd straight month the economy has grown, the institute said.

The report shows that work is expanding, orders are highest they've been in 14 years, and production had its strongest increase since 2010.

In fact, just about everything is going right for manufacturers—except for finding qualified workers.

That was the one lament heard across the country in an otherwise stellar report.

Workforce Development Critical

While that complaint was heard across the country, it may have been loudest in Connecticut, where CBIA and its members have for years called for training workers to fill the thousands of openings Connecticut manufacturers have.

It's one reason that CBIA is making jobs the centerpiece of its 2018 Government Affairs Agenda.

CBIA and its members are calling on lawmakers to focus the General Assembly session on training for jobs, filling jobs, and creating an economic climate that grows jobs.

Nationally, manufacturers added 25,000 workers in December, extending strong hiring gains in the sector.
Nationally, manufacturers added 25,000 workers in December, extending strong hiring gains in the sector seen throughout much of 2017.

Manufacturing employment rose by 16,333 per month on average in 2017—a stark turnaround from the loss of 16,000 workers experienced in 2016.

In Connecticut, manufacturers added 1,200 jobs (0.8%) in the 12 months through November, just a fraction of the vacancies companies say they need to fill by the end of this year.

Manufacturing Exports Grow

The ISM report also shows that even exports grew in 2017 despite a strong dollar that places U.S. manufacturers at a currency-exchange disadvantage.

With the exception of textiles and wood products, 16 of 18 tracked industries accelerated as the overall gauge rose to a ranking of 59.7 (anything above 50 means expansion).

Meanwhile, weakening customer inventories ensure more future orders.

Finally, the survey was conducted before the new federal tax bill was passed. ISM staff say that will enhance investment even more in 2018.

So how do we keep it going?

It's all about filling good jobs and providing the training for them—something that CBIA and its members hope lawmakers will fully embrace in their 2018 General Assembly session.