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Unemployment at 6.7% and Manufacturing Adds 27,000 as Recovery Sharply Slackens

Dec. 4, 2020
November saw the weakest month of employment regrowth yet, with 9.8 million jobs still unrestored.

The rate at which the employment market is recovering from COVID-19 is decreasing as the United States faces yet another surge in the pandemic. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that U.S. economy added 245,000 nonfarm jobs in November compared to 610,000 in October, and the unemployment rate dropped to 6.7%.

Manufacturing added 27,000 new jobs in November as compared to 33,000 in October. The number of new jobs created each month in manufacturing has trended downward each month. The manufacturing sector employs 599,000 fewer people than it did before February 2020.

In a troubling sign for the health of the economy and of employers still looking to hire, the Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that the 0.2 point drop in the unemployment rate was mainly due to a loss in the number of people participating in the labor force, which means fewer people are looking for a job.

About 3.9 million people in November reported that the COVID pandemic prevented them from looking for work, up from 3.6 million in October.

That could exacerbate a key stumbling block for manufacturers. In the Institute for Supply Management’s December 1 survey of manufacturers, executives from multiple industries cited labor shortages and suppliers with labor shortages as a challenge in ramping up production while most other factors, including consumer demand, were favorable.

“Multiple suppliers mentioned that finding new people is an issue with the COVID-19 situation,” said one transportation equipment executive surveyed by the ISM.

Most new manufacturing jobs in November were in the durable goods sector, which added 22,000 new jobs. Of those 22,000 positions, 15,400 were related to motor vehicle and parts production. Job gains in automobile production were boosted by smaller gains in machinery and nonmetallic mineral products, but partially offset by jobs lost in primary metals, fabricated metal products, computer and electronic products, and electrical equipment and appliances.

Plastics and rubber products, in the nondurable manufacturing goods sector, was responsible for 4,600 new jobs of 5,000 created. Miscellaneous nondurable goods manufacturing added 2,600 jobs, but this was offset by jobs lost at apparel, petroleum, and chemical plants.

The report comes as many stand to lose government-funded unemployment benefits December 26. Support is beginning to form around a new COVID relief bill in Congress. The $908 bill, sponsored by five Democrats, three Republicans, and an independent split between both houses of Congress, would repurpose about $500 billion in funding already allocated to the March CARES Act and extend unemployment benefits. 

About the Author

Ryan Secard | Associate Editor


Focus: Workforce and labor issues; machining and foundry management
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ryan-secard/

Associate Editor Ryan Secard covers topics relevant to the manufacturing workforce, including recruitment, safety, labor organizations, and the skills gap. Ryan has written IndustryWeek's Salary Survey annually since 2021 and has coordinated its Talent Advisory Board since September 2023.

Ryan got started at IndustryWeek in August 2019 as an editorial intern and was hired as a news editor in 2020 before his 2023 promotion to associate editor, talent. He has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the College of Wooster.

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