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Disappointing Report: Manufacturing Jobs Declined in March

April 4, 2014
America's manufacturing sector shed 1,000 jobs in March. It was the first monthly decline in manufacturing employment in eight months.

America's manufacturing sector shed 1,000 jobs in March, according to the Labor Department's monthly Employment Situation Summary released this morning. The net drop represented the first monthly decline in manufacturing employment in eight months.

Overall, durable goods gained 8,000 jobs, while nondurables dropped 9,000. The subsectors posting the biggest job gains were miscellaneous durables (3,000), machinery (2,500), nonmetallic minerals (2,100), and furniture (2,000). The subsectors posting the biggest drops were food (4,600), plastics and rubber (3,700), fabricated metals (2,600), and semiconductors and electronic components (2,100).

EMPLOYMENT BY SECTOR (Thousands of Jobs)  
  Feb '14 Mar '14 Change
Manufacturing - All 12,080.0 12,079.0 -1.0
Durable Goods 7,598.0 7,606.0 8.0
Wood products 361.8 361.8 0.0
Nonmetallic mineral products 379.5 381.6 2.1
Primary metals 397.3 397.6 0.3
Fabricated metal products 1,446.4 1,443.8 -2.6
Machinery 1,112.4 1,114.9 2.5
Computer & electronic products 1,057.3 1,056.9 -0.4
Computer & peripheral equipment 162.2 163.0 0.8
Communications equipment 99.4 99.7 0.3
Semiconductors & electronic components 370.5 368.4 -2.1
Electronic instruments 386.7 387.8 1.1
Electrical equipment & appliances 376.0 375.7 -0.3
Transportation equipment 1,523.9 1,525.7 1.8
Motor vehicles & parts 843.6 843.6 0.0
Furniture & related products 363.1 365.1 2.0
Miscellaneous durable goods 579.8 582.8 3.0
Nondurable Goods 4,482.0 4,473.0 -9.0
Food manufacturing 1,491.9 1,487.3 -4.6
Textile mills 117.3 116.9 -0.4
Textile product mills 110.8 110.9 0.1
Apparel 136.7 136.0 -0.7
Paper & paper products 376.6 376.1 -0.5
Printing & related support activities 442.4 441.9 -0.5
Petroleum & coal products 113.2 113.5 0.3
Chemicals 795.6 795.8 0.2
Plastics & rubber products 663.5 659.8 -3.7
Miscellaneous nondurable goods 233.9 234.9 1.0

Drop was Surprising

In his Shopfloor blog, National Association of Manufacturers chief economist Chad Moutray said the March decline in manufacturing jobs was unexpected and shows "there is more work to do for stronger economic growth in the coming months."

"Manufacturers remain mostly upbeat about demand, output, and employment gains for 2014, but uncertainties continue to persist," Moutray said. "As a result, manufacturers want policymakers to adopt pro-growth measures that will help to ensure that their optimistic assessments can come to fruition."

Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, noted that his organization's "#AAMeter," which tracks the progress of President Obama's pledge to create a million new manufacturing jobs in his second term, now stands at +114,000 jobs.

"There are still more manufacturing jobs leaving the U.S. than coming back," Paul said. "It doesn’t have to be this way. Lowering the trade deficit, investing in infrastructure, and boosting worker training could help to get us back on track. By more than a 2-1 margin, voters are telling Congress to focus on jobs over the budget deficit. The question is, will they listen?"

Manufacturing Trails Other Sectors

Alan Tonelson, research fellow with the U.S. Business and Industry Council, said the manufacturing sector's recent string of employment gains trail those of most other sectors.

Tonelson that the manufacturing industry's gains are "less than 30% as strong as those of the total U.S. economy."

"Manufacturing's lagging hiring gains lately show that industry's jobs rebound earlier during the economic recovery was purely cyclical, not structural, and that contrary to President Obama and others, no structural domestic manufacturing renaissance is in sight," he said.

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