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March Manufacturing More than Doubles February's Pace for New Hires

April 2, 2021
Manufacturers hired 53,000 more people in March as employment recovery picks up steam.

The Department of Labor’s most recent employment report reveals that the nonfarm economy added 916,000 jobs last month while manufacturing more than doubled the amount of jobs it gained in February. Manufacturing added 53,000 jobs in March after adding 18,000 in February as the COVID-19 recovery picked up steam.

The most recent results suggest that the 10,000 manufacturing jobs lost in January was a temporary blip in manufacturing employment growth, which has otherwise grown in the months since April 2020, when manufacturing lost 1.3 million jobs all in one month.

The manufacturing sector currently employs about 515,000 fewer people than it did in February 2020, before the first effects of the COVID-19 pandemic began to impact employment.

New hires in manufacturing were split almost evenly between the durable goods and nondurable goods sectors, which added 30,000 and 23,000 jobs, respectively.

Fabricated metal products companies accounted for 13,700 new jobs, accounting for almost half of all new jobs related to durable-goods production. Companies producing miscellaneous durable goods hired 4,500 more people, and machinery, electronics, and nonmetallic mineral products all saw significant gains in hiring.

Only two durable-goods sectors lost more jobs than they added: furniture and related products, which lost 1,300 jobs, and transportation equipment. The latter sector lost 3,000 jobs total, 1,000 of which were in motor vehicles and parts—potentially a consequence of the semiconductor shortage currently squeezing automotive production lines.

Growth in nondurable goods production was led by companies making miscellaneous nondurable goods, which added 7,400 jobs; printing and related support activities, which added 5,900; and food manufacturing, which added 3,400.

The only nondurable goods producing industries that lost jobs last month were those producing petroleum and coal products or plastics and rubber products, which lost 500 and 300 jobs, respectively.

As with the transportation industry, those losses despite sustained demand may be explained by recent events. The heavy winter storms of February, specifically, have caused sustained supply headaches for chemical products plants: In the Institute for Supply Management’s most recent survey of manufacturing leaders, an executive in the plastics and rubber industry said the storms had caused “tremendous stress on the supply chain.”

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