Manufacturing added 4,000 jobs in February amid a weak job-generating performance by the economy overall.
Durable goods manufacturing boosted employment by 5,000 jobs while non-durable goods lost 1,000 jobs, according to a breakdown by industry sector issued today by the U.S. Bureau of Statistics.
Total non-farm employment increased by only 20,000 last month, the bureau said in a statement. That was far below an estimate of a 180,000 gain from economists polled by Reuters. Despite that, the unemployment rate fell to 3.8 percent from 4 percent in January.
As a result, manufacturing, while posting a small advance, still outperformed the economy as a whole.
Manufacturing job gains included transportation equipment, up 3,500, and machinery, up 3,200. Within transportation, motorized vehicles and parts posted a 1,300-job increase.
The question is how much longer the vehicles sector can keep adding jobs. This week, General Motors Co. ceased production of Chevrolet Cruze cars at its Lordstown, Ohio, factory.
That’s one of five plants in the U.S. and Canada where GM says it has no “allocated” products. The five factories won’t be formally closed until negotiations with labor unions in the two countries. Meanwhile, light-vehicle sales are slowing, with car deliveries plunging.
Far From Dire
The industry situation overall is far from dire, though. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which already had mostly ended car output, said last week it plans to invest $4.5 billion in Michigan to boost production of its Jeep and Ram vehicles. Plans call for a new plant in the city limits of Detroit, the first in decades.
Job losers in durable goods during February included non-metallic mineral products, down 3,300, and fabricated metal products, down 2,900.
Manufacturing jobs totalled 12.834 million on a seasonally adjusted basis in February. That’s up from an adjusted 12.83 million the month before and 12.592 million in February 2018.
Manufacturing jobs peaked in June 1979 (19.6 million on a seasonally adjusted basis, 19.7 million unadjusted). That sank to a low of 11.45 million adjusted and 11.34 million unadjusted in February 2010 following a severe recession caused by the 2008 financial crisis.
Since that low, new manufacturing jobs have been created requiring increased skills because of increased automation and technology in factories.