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Industry Adds 21,000 Employees in February as Layoff Anniversaries Loom

March 5, 2021
Gains were mostly driven by the transportation equipment sector, which added about 10,000 new jobs.

February was another month of sluggish recovery as the overall nonfarm economy added 379,000 jobs in February while manufacturing added 21,000. The latest jobs report from the Department of Labor shows that the unemployment rate, which fell by a tenth of a point to 6.2, and the number of unemployed people at about 10 million both remained almost unchanged over the month.

Most of the growth was in the durable goods sector as transportation equipment companies hired 9,700 people. Machinery companies added 3,800 jobs, miscellaneous durable goods companies added 2,800, and electrical equipment and appliances companies hired 2,400. The largest durable goods jobs losses were in nonmetallic mineral products, which cut 2,400 jobs, and wood products, which cut 1,100.

Nondurable goods employment increased by 4,000 in February, with notable gains in miscellaneous nondurable goods manufacturing (4,100 new jobs), plastics and rubber products(3,000 jobs), and apparel (2,400). Food manufacturing lost 3,100 jobs while printing and related activities lost 1,700 and paper products lost 1,000.

Job growth in the manufacturing sector has mostly grown over the past 9 months, during which it only lost about 10,000 jobs in January but otherwise continued to hire.  

For many parts of the economy, March 2021 marks one full year since COVID-19 and efforts to contain it first caused massive layoffs in the spring and summer of 2020. Employment in manufacturing, which lost 18,000 jobs in March 2020, cratered a month later when it lost 1.3 million jobs in April of that year. According to the latest estimates from the BLS, jobs in manufacturing are down by 561,000 over the year.

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