U.S. Manufacturing Continues To Shed Jobs

By John S. McClenahen Even as other statistics show the manufacturing sector of the U.S. economy starting to come out of the 2001 recession, jobs in the nation's factories continue to decline. Manufacturing lost 17,000 additional jobs in November, the U.S. Labor Department reported Dec. 5. By Kathleen P. Utgoff's calculations, however, job loss in manufacturing is down measurably from what it has been. "Over the past three months, employment edged down by an average of 17,000 per month, compared with an average monthly drop of 53,000 for the 12 months ending in August," says Utgoff, commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Labor Department agency that compiles and publishes employment data. Particularly encouraging among last Friday's data is that employment among durable-goods manufacturers -- the companies that make appliances, autos and other products designed to last more than three years -- held in November, a development noted by both Utgoff and Jerry J. Jasinowski, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, Washington, D.C. "Employment in durable-goods manufacturing stabilized at about 9 million after 35 consecutive months of job losses," figures Jasinowski. Nevertheless, David A. Rosenberg, chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch & Co., New York, finds the overall U.S. job creation situation in November disappointing. Although the U.S. nonfarm economy generated 57,000 jobs last month, "it was at a slower pace, and given the amount of slack in the economy, that's not good news," says Rosenberg. The nonfarm economy had generated 137,000 jobs in October, and economists generally expected November's job increase number to top 150,000. On Dec. 5, the Labor Department also reported that the U.S. civilian unemployment rate, which is based on a different survey from the payroll employment numbers, fell to 5.9% from 6% in October. Also on December 5, the U.S. Commerce Department released data on October manufacturing orders that substantiate economic recovery. New orders increased 2.2% to $314.2 billion in October, the fifth increase in six months and better than September's 1.4% rise. Significantly, new orders for manufactured durables rose 3.4% in October to $184.9 billion, slightly higher than the 3.3% increase initially reported.

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