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Estimate-Beating Jobs Report Shows Slow Manufacturing Growth, Say Economists

Dec. 6, 2019
The end of the UAW strike on GM significantly influenced the numbers.

The latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that nonfarm payrolls rose by 266,000 in November, beating estimates of 187,000 new jobs predicted by economists. The unemployment rate fell slightly during the month, to 3.5%, which is its lowest point since 1969. Wages also beat expectations by growing 3.1% since the same time last year. Manufacturing employment, specifically, gained 54,000 jobs in November.

But the report’s findings on the jobs do not take into account the ending of the GM workers’ strike, which brought 49,000 strikers back on the payroll in November, noted Michael Hicks, economist at Ball State University and director of Ball State’s Center for Business and Economic Research.

In a statement, Hicks said the numbers are “reasonably strong,” similar to the 2019 monthly job growth average of 180,000.

Hicks also noted that the composition of job growth, changes in long term unemployment, and a changing labor force were indicators of slower long-term growth than in 2018.

Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul echoed Hick’s assessment that the report’s rosy picture of the industry is incomplete. In a statement, he said, “Overall, 2019 factory job growth has been incredibly weak, lagging well behind 2018 and underperforming the rest of the economy.” He called on President Trump to make progress on “China’s cheating” and American infrastructure.

National Association of Manufacturers Chief Economist Chad Moutray, however, commented in a statement that the report marked a “rebound” for manufacturing. He said that manufacturers are now seeing slow-moving “signs of stabilization,” and urged the United States to ratify USMCA, make progress on negotiations with China, and reauthorize the Export-Import bank long-term in order to keep the stabilization “on track.”

About the Author

Ryan Secard | Associate Editor


Focus: Workforce and labor issues; machining and foundry management

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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