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Manufacturing Adds 38,000 Jobs Despite Overall Employment Loss

Jan. 11, 2021
Nonfarm U.S. employment fell by 140,000 in December, according to the Census Bureau.

The United States Census Bureau released its official employment situation report for December on January 8. The latest figures showed that total nonfarm payroll employment fell by about 140,000 in December while the unemployment rate remained constant at 6.7%.

The employment rate for manufacturing increased slightly from November, as it added 39,000 jobs in total last month compared to 35,000 in November. Most December layoffs were in the leisure and hospitality sector, which lost 498,000 jobs.

Durable goods manufacturing as a whole added 25,000 jobs. Motor vehicle and parts manufacturing added 6,700 people while the transportation equipment sector as a whole added 5,200. The nonmetallic mineral products manufacturing workforce grew by 6,100 people, and the next largest gain in absolute numbers was the machinery industry.

Nondurable goods contributed 13,000 new jobs. Plastics and rubber products saw the strongest growth, with 6,900 new hires, followed by growth in food manufacturing (5,500 new jobs) and apparel (4,000). More jobs in most nondurable goods sectors was offset, though, by substantial losses in the “miscellaneous nondurable goods manufacturing” category, which lost 11,200 people.

The unemployment rate, which was unchanged from last month, is still almost twice as large as it was in February’s survey, before the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns that accompanied attempts to control it.

The latest report is only the latest sign that employment recovery from the pandemic is slowing. While the overall economy has yet to recover almost 10 million jobs lost since February 2020, the latest report shows the manufacturing sector currently employs 12.3 million people in the United States compared to 12.8 million in February.

Data for the December survey was collected, as is typical of the Census Bureau’s employment reports, during the middle of the month, and notably would not include any jobs added or lost after December 27, when President Trump signed the latest COVID stimulus bill sent to him by Congress.

That bill includes $600 in individual payments similar to the CARES act of spring 2020 and $284 billion in new allocations for the Payroll Protection Plan. In a statement, the National Association of Manufacturers praised the bill for what it said were a number of manufacturing-related priorities.

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