Here’s How Low We’ve Been on Semiconductors

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That’s how few days (actually fewer than 5) it would have taken for companies to exhaust their supply of the most-coveted semiconductors last year, down from 40 days in 2019. 

The steep drop in the cushion, part of survey results released by the U.S. Commerce Department Tuesday, underscores why the pandemic-triggered shortage in semiconductors has affected our ability to buy everything from cars to smartphones.

Given such low inventories—which are even thinner in some key industries—a disruption that shutters an overseas semiconductor plant for even a few weeks has the potential to “shut down a manufacturing facility in the U.S., putting American workers and their families at risk,” the department said in a report. The 2021 inventory, the median for 25 semiconductor users surveyed in September, is based on 160 products the companies identified as being the most challenging to acquire.

Semiconductors are used in a growing number of products, including medical devices, and the lack of them has not only led to shortages of items, but contributed to rising prices for consumers. To help remedy the situation, the department has been pushing Congress to pass the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, which includes $52 billion to boost domestic chip production.

“The semiconductor supply chain remains fragile, and it is essential that Congress pass chips funding as soon as possible,” Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said in a statement Tuesday.

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  1. Department of Commerce. “Results From Semiconductor Supply Chain Request for Information.”

  2. Department of Commerce. “Commerce Semiconductor Data Confirms Urgent Need for Congress to Pass US Innovation and Competition Act.”

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