October Job Report Lukewarm Positive

October Job Report: Lukewarm Positive

The unemployment rate edged down to 5.8% in October, and the manufacturing sector added a net total of 15,000 new workers.

The monthly jobs report issued by the Labor Department this morning is, as one New York Times blogger termed it, "Boring, in a (Mostly) Good Way":

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 214,000 for the month.

The unemployment rate edged down to 5.8% —its lowest level since July 2008.

Most germane to IndustryWeek readers, the manufacturing sector added a net total of 15,000 new workers.

The biggest-gaining manufacturing subsectors for October were Machinery, +5,200 jobs; Fabricated Metals, +3,800; Furniture, +3,700; and Chemicals, +2,400.

On the flipside, the biggest-losing manufacturing subsectors were Food, -1,500 jobs; Electrical Equipment & Appliances, -1,400; Printing, -1,200; and Miscellaneous Durables, -1,000.

National Association of Manufacturers Chief Economist Chad Moutray wrote in NAM's Shopfloor blog that the data in this morning's report "suggest that hiring in October returned to the monthly averages we have seen over the past year":

"That is an encouraging sign that manufacturers are continuing to add workers consistent with recent increases in demand and output. In addition, manufacturing leaders remain mostly upbeat in their outlook, which should bode well for hiring moving forward in the sector.

"At the same time, these numbers underscore the importance of pro-growth, pro-export policies over the coming months. As policymakers debate their next steps post-election, they need to focus on measures that will have an immediate positive impact on the economy such as enacting tax reform, passage of Trade Promotion Authority, reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank, adopting immigration reform, enhancing workforce development and finding long-term infrastructure spending solutions, and other priorities."

Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul said that while the manufacturing sector is adding jobs, it isn't doing so fast enough.

"I'm very concerned that a surge of imports from China and a paucity of public investment in infrastructure will continue to hamper the great potential of the productive sector of our economy," Paul said.

Paul also noted that the sector's hopes of meeting President Obama's goal of a million new manufacturing jobs during the president's second term "are fading fast."

"Without some progress on the trade deficit and a long-term infrastructure plan, I don't see that changing," Paul said. "No doubt the economic anxiety that many Americans still feel is compounded by stagnant wage growth and diminished opportunities for middle class careers."

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