Despite 9 Percent Unemployment, Manufacturing Shows Gains

By May 6, 2011Economy

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this morning that the U.S. unemployment rate rose from 8.8 in March to 9.0 percent in April.  Despite this, there were 244,000 additional non-farm payroll jobs, with gains widespread across a number of industries, including manufacturing.

Manufacturing employment increased 29,000 for the month, with 19,000 in durable goods industries and 10,000 in nondurables.  The largest manufacturing employment gainers for April were food manufacturing (up 7,200), machinery (up 5,200), fabricated metal products (up 5,100), and computer and electronic products (up 4,000). Average hourly earnings in manufacturing also edged higher in April, from $23.56 to $23.60.  Similarly, the index of average number of hours worked among manufacturers moved from 84.9 to 85.1.  Overall, average weekly earnings in manufacturing are up 2.3 percent since last April.

This report is positive news for manufacturing, showing the recovery continues to move in the right direction with employment with 250,000 net new jobs created since December 2009. However, we are not seeing as large of employment gains as we would hope to at this point in the recovery, mainly due to uncertainty still facing businesses such as higher energy prices and increased regulation. Manufacturers use one third of our nation’s energy supply and as prices continue to increase it will only have a larger drag on the manufacturing sector and the economy.

Update: This version corrects an earlier error regarding the average number of hours worked.

Chad Moutray is chief economist for the National Association of Manufacturers.

Chad Moutray

Chad Moutray

Chad Moutray is chief economist for the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the Director of the Center for Manufacturing Research for The Manufacturing Institute, where he serves as the NAM’s economic forecaster and spokesperson on economic issues. He frequently comments on current economic conditions for manufacturers through professional presentations and media interviews. He has appeared on Bloomberg, CNBC, C-SPAN, Fox Business and Fox News, among other news outlets.
Chad Moutray

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