U.S. Manufacturing Job Gain Must Be Discounted

The manufacturing sector of the U.S. economy added 20,000 jobs during February, the U.S. Labor Department reported on March 4. While the National Association of Manufacturers was understandably applauding the gain, the first employment increase in U.S. manufacturing in sixth months, the details make the increase look less impressive.

Much of the February increase in manufacturing jobs was a result of automotive industry workers returning to their jobs after temporary layoffs, noted Kathleen P. Utgoff, the commissioner of the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics. Although "a few other manufacturing industries had small gains" in February, manufacturing employment has shown "little net change" since the middle of 2004," she added.

Indeed, the 20,000 manufacturing jobs added in February exactly offset the 20,000 lost in January and returned U.S. manufacturing employment to 14.3 million.

Overall, the nonfarm sector of the U.S. economy created 262,000 new jobs in February, significantly more than the 150,000 needed each month just to keep up with population growth. February's overall job increase also was better than the 225,000 gain economists had generally expected.

The U.S. unemployment rate rose to 5.4% in February 2005 from 5.2% in January as the civilian workforce grew by 153,000 people with very little change in the total number of people employed.

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