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Like a strike-shortened sports season’s champion, the conclusion in today’s RealityChek post needs an asterisk. The conclusion stems from this morning’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by Industry report from the Commerce Department, which shows that U.S. domestic manufacturing continues to become ever more self-reliant. In other words, it’s reducing its dependence for growth on foreign-made industrial goods of all kinds generally speaking.

The asterisk is needed because the new data covers the first quarter of this year, and therefore it includes March – when much of the U.S economy was shut down by government order or recommendation due to the CCP Virus. As a result, a chunk of the results say nothing about how manufacturing or the rest of economy would have performed in normal times.

Still, this morning’s evidence that U.S.-based industry is becoming more autonomous comes from several different findings calculable from the GDP by Industry’s raw data.

For example, again, due partly to the shutdowns’ effects, the report shows that according to a widely followed measure called value-added, domestic manufacturing’s output dipped by 0.99 percent between the first quarter of 2019 and the first quarter of this year. At the same time, the manufacturing trade deficit during this period shrank by 7.31 percent – more than 13 times faster. During the last comparable period (fourth quarter, 2018 to fourth quarter, 2019), manufacturing production grew by 0.70 percent, and its trade gap narrowed by 7.59 percent – a somewhat better performance on both scores.

At this point it’s vital to note that these growth rates are by no means good. In fact, they’re the worst by far since the final year of the Obama administration – when on a calendar year basis, domestic industry shrank by 1.19 percent. Yet during that same year 2016, despite this contraction, the manufacturing trade shortfall expanded by 4.66 percent. So if you value self-sufficiency (as you should in a world in which the United States has found itself painfully short of many healthcare-related goods, and in which dozens of its trade partners were hoarding their own supplies), it’s clear that during 2016, the nation was getting the worst of all possible manufacturing worlds.

Also important: there’s no doubt that the same Trump administration tariffs and trade wars with which domestic manufacturing has been dealing over the past two years have slowed its growth. In other words, industry has been adjusting to policy-created pressures to adjust its global, and in particular China-centric, supply chains. That’s bound to create inefficiencies.

If you don’t care about significant American economic reliance on an increasingly hostile dictatorship, you’ll carp about paying any efficiency price for this decoupling from China (and other unreliable countries). If you do care, you’ll recognize the slower growth as an adjustment cost needed to correct the disastrous choice made by pre-Trump Presidents to undercut America’s economic independence severely.

Moreover, during the last year, domestic manufacturing output was held back by two developments that had nothing to do with President Trump’s trade policy: the strike at General Motors in the fall of 2019, which slashed U.S. production both of vehicles and parts, and of all the components and materials that comprise dedicated auto parts; and the safety problems at Boeing, which resulted in the grounding of its popular 737 Max model worldwide starting in March, 2019, and in a suspension of all that aircraft’s production this past January.

Also encouraging from a self-reliance standpoint. During the first quarter of 2019, the manufacturing trade deficit as a percentage of domestic manufacturing output sank from just under 43 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019 (and 43.36 percent for the entirety of last year) to 37.27 percent. That’s the lowest level since full-year 2013’s 35.82 percent.

These figures should make clear that the manufacturing trade deficit’s share of manufacturing output kept growing during the final Obama years and into the Trump years. Indeed, on an annual basis, this number peaked at 47.01 percent in the third quarter of 2019. To some extent, blame what I’ve previously identified as tariff front-running (the rush by importers throughout the trade war to bring product into the United States before threatened tariffs were actually imposed) along with those supply chain-related adjustment costs.

To complicate matters further, as suggested above, that very low first quarter result stemmed partly from the nosedive taken by manufacturing and other U.S. economic activity in March. Since that level is clearly artificially low, it’s probably going to bob up eventually – but hopefully not recover fully.

In all, though, the first quarter GDP by Industry report points to a future of more secure supplies of manufactured goods for Americans. And unless you believe that domestic manufacturers have completely lost their ability to adjust successfully to a (needed) New Normal in U.S. trade policy, the release points to a return of solid manufacturing output growth rates as well.