New Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that manufacturing hiring dropped to 226,000 in October. It had been 263,000 in May and was 234,000 in September. Job openings also declined from 235,000 in September to 231,000 in October. On the positive side, manufacturing separations decreased substantially for the month, down from 238,000 to 209,000. As a result, net hiring for the sector was positive with 17,000 net new manufacturing jobs added in October.
The story for the larger economy was similar, with drop-offs in job openings, hires and separations. There were 4,040,000 new hires in the month of October for all industries, which was down from 4,150,000 the previous month. This compares to 3,932,000 new separations in October, suggesting a net employment gain of 108,000.
Overall, these numbers suggest what many of us already know – hiring remains a challenge. Despite the lower unemployment rate, manufacturers and other sectors in the economy have not picked up their pace of hiring. Uncertainties abound, and until many of these anxieties are eased, the employment picture will remain mired in a rut.
These JOLTS numbers, while showing net employment gains for manufacturers, are hardly anything to cheer about. While recent surveys have noted improvements in production and employment – especially moving into 2012 – it is also clear that manufacturers are looking for ways to get the larger economy moving again.
Chad Moutray is chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.