Job openings in manufacturing hit a three-month high last month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while both hiring and separations fell. The latest figures show that the manufacturing workplace market has cooled as it stabilizes and fills workplace roles.
The preliminary figures for December 2023, published by the Department of Labor January 30, show that job openings in manufacturing rose by 48,000 to 601,000 in total—historically high, but notably about halfway between where they were last year and where they were before the Covid pandemic. NAM Chief Economist Chad Moutray, in a post on LinkedIn, noted that manufacturing job openings averaged 853,000 in 2022 and 432,000 in the years leading up to 2020.
The near-term number, though, showed last month had weak hiring. Manufacturing companies hired an estimated 327,000 workers in December, only slightly above the record low of 310,000 manufacturing hires in March 2020.
Despite the weaker trend, last month was a net positive for manufacturing hiring: With 318,000 total separations, the sector as a whole added an estimated 9,000 jobs in December.
Additionally, the number of workers who quit manufacturing jobs declined from 215,000 workers to 203,000. In his analysis, Moutray cited the lower rate of voluntary separations as a sign that rapid labor turnover, or “churn,” is declining.
“This is a sign that churn, which has been a major issue for manufacturing amid a tight labor market, has eased significantly. In fact, the average number of quits per month in the 2017-2019 period was also 203,000, suggesting that churn has returned to a pre-pandemic pace in the sector,” he wrote.
In a positive trend for manufacturing hiring, the rate of quits, and layoffs has fallen faster in manufacturing than it has in the overall private employment market. In the last quarter of 2023, the rate of separations in the overall economy as a percentage of employment fell from 3.6% to 3.4%: Over the same time frame, separation rates in manufacturing fell from 2.9% to 2.4%.