U.S. Jobless Numbers Hint Of Recovery, Even In Manufacturing

By John S. McClenahen CEOs and other senior executives of manufacturing companies would like to have more visibility right now. Not the kind that feeds egos, but the financial kind, some solid signs that a nine-month business recession is ending and recovery is underway. And although economists -- including some manufacturing economists -- continue to talk about recovery from recession starting this month or next, their words seem to be more wishful thinking than data-supported forecasts. Except for this: July's unemployment data, released Aug. 3 by the U.S. Labor Dept., hint just a bit of better times. Although U.S. factories shed another 49,000 people last month, the figure was far less than the nearly 100,000 manufacturing jobs lost on average in each of the first six months of this year. What's more, automakers, chemical producers, and apparel makers actually added jobs during July. To be sure, one month's statistics do not a trend make. And the reality is that manufacturing's high-tech sector continues to hurt. Electrical-equipment and industrial-machinery manufacturers, the companies that make such high-tech products as computers and telecommunications equipment, laid-off another 45,000 workers in July.

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