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The only way to restore our economy is to ‘wear masks’: Nat’l Association of Manufacturers CEO

The U.S. economy saw another 661,000 jobs added back in September and a modest improvement in the unemployment rate, as the recovery in the labor market continues at a stagnating rate. Jay Timmons - National Association of Manufacturers CEO & President joins Yahoo Finance’s On The Move panel to weigh in.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: Stocks continue to fall at this hour. Although we are seeing them bounce up off the lows, the major averages all-- not down as much as they were earlier in the session. The Dow is off a little more than a a third of 1%, the S&P down about 6/10 of 1%. The NASDAQ is down by nearly 1.1%.

In addition to the news that President Trump and Melania Trump tested positive for coronavirus, there is, of course, also the jobs report to consider that we got out this morning, an addition of 661,000 jobs last month versus more than 850,000 that was estimated by economists. As part of that, there were 66,000 manufacturing jobs that were added in the economy. And I want to bring into the program now Jay Timmons. He is National Association of Manufacturers CEO and president. He is joining us from northern Virginia.

Jay, thank you so much for joining us. So we got the number, the addition of those manufacturing jobs. Talk me through what you were hearing from your members and constituents right now in terms of where they're seeing growth.

Manufacturing is one of those industries that has had some-- a lot of challenges through COVID, right, in terms of keeping workers safe, because a lot of the factories have remained open. People are in close quarters around machinery. So what's the current picture look like?

JAY TIMMONS: So yes, we have had challenges. But I have to say, Julie, that right from the start, manufacturers saw what was coming and began to take appropriate measures to keep the workforce safe and to keep manufacturing going. We were considered essential, much like health care workers, to keep-- to keep our economy and our country moving.

So we began to talk about the use of masks as early as January. We talked about social distancing and sanitization. And I would say that some of the challenges, to be perfectly blunt about it, some of the challenges that we've seen have not been in manufacturing facilities, but have been outside of those facilities, where you see folks being very cavalier about wearing masks or not taking social distancing seriously or gathering in large groups.

Look, we believe that the only way for us to get our economy back the way it should be is wear the mask, right, and take other appropriate precautions. We had an OK jobs report. But it could've been so much better if folks would take this virus seriously.

Now, here's the irony, by the way-- today is Manufacturing Day. It is something we celebrate every year. We do so by opening our facilities to students and teachers to show them all about all of the great opportunities that are available in manufacturing. And even though we lost 1.3 million jobs throughout the pandemic and gained only about half them back so far, we still have 400,000 open jobs in the sector, because we can't find folks with the right skills to do those jobs.

So one of the first things-- or last things that President Trump did before the COVID announcement, COVID positive announcement was he signed a proclamation declaring today Manufacturing Day. And we're very grateful to him for doing that and keeping the spotlight on our industry.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Jay, it's good to have you here. I am curious, though-- data from the St. Louis Federal Reserve, you can see the trend in manufacturing over the last 20 years has been down. It starts to go back up after the great fiscal recession of 2008, 2009.

But it isn't going up drastically. It isn't going up dramatically. It's still at levels that are almost 40, 50-year lows. And that was before the pandemic. It doesn't seem as if manufacturing, while still a key part of the economy, is ever going to regain that kind of footing. Is there something you can tell us that we're missing here?

JAY TIMMONS: Well, sure. So manufacturing, for every dollar invested, it creates $4 to $5 of-- sorry, for every dollar that's invested, it creates $1.90 of investment in other sectors. For every job that's created in manufacturing, it creates another four to five jobs in other sectors.

So while you've seen that decline over several decades, I think we reversed that, quite frankly, a few years ago when we implemented a competitive tax policy. We were the highest tax rate in the world. We brought it down to 21%. It should have been lower, to be honest. But it's much better than it was.

We have regulatory certainty for the first time in many decades. And that's not a Republican or a Democrat issue. It was an issue of administrations of both parties. We've got that certainty now.

With trade policies that are put in place that ensure that we have positive relationships with our trading partners, that will be a good thing going forward. And I think you'll see more and more investment here in the United States, assuming those tax and regulatory policies, those competitive tax and regulatory policies stay in place. So that's a challenge, I think, that manufacturers have. And that's why we have launched our Keeping Our Promises Campaign to make sure that we can tell the stories about investment in America, hiring workers in the United States, and raising wages and benefits.

AKIKO FUJITA: Jay, I want to get back to what you mentioned about the need to take these precautions in the face of the virus. If you look at the Midwest, that's kind of where we've seen the real upticks. I mean, this is where a lot of these manufacturing jobs are. And this comes ahead of what is an expected second wave.

So what contingency plans have you put in place or need to be put in place as we expect this uptick? On the one hand, have you learned lessons from what you've experienced the last several months? And are you thinking about staggering the hours more? What are you hearing from your members?

JAY TIMMONS: So that's a great question, and thank you for it, because this is a shared responsibility for everyone. I'm very proud of the manufacturing sector and how they adjusted very, very quickly to this incredible crisis. We've had very low instance in our facilities of outbreaks, but we have had some, to be sure. Every time something like that happens, a facility is usually shut down for a number of days. Some very severe sanitization protocols are put into place.

But one of the things that we did recently was our chairman, Mike Lamach, Trane Technologies sent out a request to manufacturers to take a pledge-- not manufacturers, but to ask their employees to take a pledge to practice safe-- to implement safe practices outside of the workplace. We can be as safe as we want within a manufacturing facility, but if somebody goes out and does something irresponsible or dangerous and brings it back into the facility, there's nothing we can do. There's nothing that any business can do.

So that's why we need to have leadership right from the start, right from the top, talking about the importance of wearing a mask, not having large gatherings, and maintaining social distance. It's the only way we get this under control. And believe me, from a personal standpoint, I want to get it under control. I've got three kids downstairs right now learning virtually. And it's not so fun, right?

I'm talking to you today from my home. We're all in this situation. And the only way to get it under control, to make sure that manufacturing workers are safe and health care workers are safe and to finally put an end to this thing, is to do the responsible things.

JULIE HYMAN: Jay Timmons, thank you so much, the National Association of Manufacturers CEO and president.