U.S. manufacturing businesses added 9,000 net new employees in December and 77,000 for the 2013 calendar year, according to the Labor Department's monthly jobs report released this morning. Industry analysts' opinions of the year-end results ranged from "relatively good" to "weak."
While the net gain of 9,000 jobs in December was down considerably from the corresponding figures for November (+31,000) and October (+17,000), it was "suprisingly good considering the much worse than expected improvement in overall nonfarm jobs," notes Alan Tonelson, research fellow at the U.S. Business and Industry Council.
Tonelson adds, however, that the big picture for manufacturing employment "remains humdrum."
"Manufacturing actually outperformed the overall economy as a job creator in December, but has still been a major employment laggard since the recovery began, and the jobs recession in the huge nondurables sector drags on," he says.
Tonelson adds that "History clearly teaches that a fast-track bill greasing the skids for more deficit-boosting trade agreements will hit manufacturing workers and their employers hardest."
While the December data show continued weakness in the overall labor market, the manufacturing sector has experienced a notable surge in the last five months, notes Chad Moutray, chief economist with the National Association of Manufacturers. But he tempers that piece of good news with the reality that overall, 2013 "was the weakest year of hiring growth in the sector since 2009."
To counter that trend, Moutray urges federal policymakers to adopt pro-growth measures that will enable the manufacturers to expand and hire more workers.
Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, says the December numbers for manufacturing jobs are "weak" and that "talk of a manufacturing resurgence is very premature."
Paul says the last two years were "very weak for manufacturing employment" and 2014 will produce more of the same "unless Congress and the administration get their collective acts together."
"Now that the Federal Reserve has signaled a tapering of its monetary stimulus, a jobs plan must be priority number one," Paul says. "That means public investment in infrastructure, research, and worker training, a focus on cutting the trade deficit by passing currency reform legislation, and enacting a manufacturing plan along the lines of what Senate Democrats have proposed."
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' monthly jobs report released this morning, the U.S. manfacturing sectors that posted the biggest net job gains in December were food, fabricated metal, transportation equipment, primary metals, and petroleum and coal products.
And the sectors that reported the biggest net losses were electronic instruments, computer and electronic products, printing, chemicals, and miscellaneous nondurable goods.
Manufacturing Employees by Sector
(Thousands of Jobs)
Fabricated metal products
Petroleum and coal products
Plastics and rubber products
Semiconductors and electronic components
Motor vehicles and parts
Computer and peripheral equipment
Paper and paper products
Electrical equipment and appliances
Miscellaneous durable goods
Textile product mills
Furniture and related products
Nonmetallic mineral products
Miscellaneous nondurable goods
Printing and related support activities
Computer and electronic products