Manufacturing Adds Jobs In August, However . . .

By John S. McClenahen With the latest U.S. Labor Department data showing manufacturing adding 22,000 jobs in August and the economy overall adding 144,000 jobs, Jerry J. Jasinowski, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, Washington, D.C., was decidedly upbeat going into the just-completed Labor Day weekend. " . . . It is clear that manufacturing, the overall economy and American workers are much better off now than they were a year ago," he said. Kathleen Bostjancic, a senior economist at Merrill Lynch & Co., New York, was less generous. While acknowledging the number of jobs added to the economy in August was close to the consensus forecast of 150,000, she noted that U.S. payroll gains have averaged only 104,000 during the past three months. She attributed August's tenth-of-a-percentage point drop in the unemployment rate to 5.4% to 152,000 fewer people being in the labor force. "Also as a sign of still-tough labor conditions, the [labor force] participation rate fell 0.2 percentage points to 66.0%," she added. Neither Jasinowski nor Bostjancic mentioned that manufacturing employment's August rebound from a loss in July was largely a result of autoworkers returning to their jobs after a unusually long July industry shutdown for retooling. In its report on Sept. 3, the Labor Department stated that 1.7 million U.S. jobs had been created during the past year, with slightly more than 50% of the gain coming from March through May of 2004. What the department did not say was that U.S. manufacturing alone lost about 3.1 million jobs between mid-year 2000 and yearend 2003.

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