After more than a decade of seeing American manufacturing plants shut down, 2012 could be the year the U.S. finally reverses that trend and opens more plants than closes. It’s an important step, one that demonstrates the steady recovery of American manufacturing. But analysts say the sector is far from what it was 15 or 20 years ago.
Since 1999, two recessions and the globalization of manufacturing meant plant closings exceeded openings in the U.S. every year of the last decade.
During each recession, the gap between openings and closings expanded dramatically. For example, in 2009 plant closings surged to approximately 14,000, while the number of plant openings dropped to 8,000. By Q3 of last year, as the manufacturing sector rebounded, the “plant closing gap” had shrunk to approximately 1,000 (10,00 closings vs. 9,000 openings) and some believe there’s a strong chance that gap will close completely when we see the numbers for the first quarter of 2012.