Manufacturing Continues To Shed Jobs, But At Slower Rate

By John S. McClenahen Although economists are talking about an improving U.S. labor market and there are signs -- literally -- of companies seeking workers, the manufacturing sector lost jobs for the forty-second consecutive month in January. Last month's toll was 11,000 workers, the U.S. Labor Department reported on Feb. 6. Although the fabricated metal products, nonmetallic mineral products, communications equipment, and computer and peripheral equipment industries added jobs last month, these gains were more than offset by "small losses in other durable goods industries and most nondurable goods industries," explains Kathleen P. Utgoff, commissioner of the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Nevertheless, January's job loss of 11,000 in manufacturing was less than half the 27,000 jobs lost in December 2003 and well below both the September 2003 to January 2004 average of 20,000 and the 62,000 average for the first eight months of 2003. ". . . It is clear that the manufacturing employment market is beginning to stabilize," states Jerry J. Jasinowski, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, Washington, D.C. In contrast to the manufacturing sector's additional job losses in January, the overall nonfarm sector of the U.S. economy added 112,000 jobs in January -- although, notes New York-based UBS Investment Research, less than the consensus expectation for a 175,000 gain in jobs. "Payrolls thus signal better job markets, but not dramatically," says UBS. The U.S. unemployment rate, calculated from a different BLS survey, fell one-tenth of a percentage point to 5.6% in January.

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