The employment future may be more promising for U.S. manufacturing workers than last month's job situation proved to be. The most recent Hudson Employment Index for manufacturing workers, released Feb. 2, shows worker confidence rising dramatically in January -- to an index reading of 105.2 in January from 90.8 in December 2004. The increase in optimism is attributed to three factors: fewer expected layoffs, less concern about job security and increased job satisfaction.
However, data released Feb. 4 by the U.S. Labor Department show the manufacturing sector of the U.S. economy shedding 25,000 jobs in January. Motor vehicle and parts producers cut their payrolls by 10,000 people last month. Chemical producers reduced their workforces by 5,000 people. And makers of semiconductors and electronic components cut 2,000 employees.
After reaching a post-recession low point in February 2004, employment in U.S. manufacturing grew by 85,000 workers through August 2004. But the trend since September of last year has been downward, and 61,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost.
Overall, U.S. nonfarm employment, which includes manufacturing, added 146,000 jobs in January, just below the average of 150,000 jobs per month that economists say must be created to keep pace with population growth. Economists, however, had been expecting as many as 220,000 jobs to be created in January.
The U.S. unemployment rate edge down to 5.2% in January from 5.4% in December 2004 as the number of unemployed fell to 7.7 million from 8.04 million and the number of people not in the labor forcer rose by 419,000.