The Bureau of Labor Statistics, in releasing new Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) data, found that manufacturing job openings and hires were little changed in November from October. Manufacturers hired 237,000 workers in November, up from 235,000 the previous month. Job openings, on the other hand, were down from 232,000 to 227,000.
Manufacturing separations increased from 216,000 to 220,000 for the month. As a result, net hiring for the sector was positive, with 17,000 net new manufacturing jobs added in November. This is now two consecutive months of net positive hiring; however, the rate of hiring as a percentage of total sector employment has fallen from 2.4 percent in November 2010 to 2.0 percent in November 2011. This suggests that hiring levels are still subpar (last week, we learned that 23,000 net new jobs were added in manufacturing in December, but those figures have not been broken out by labor turnover yet).
The story for the larger economy was similar, with fewer job openings and hires in the private sector and slightly more separations. Net hiring was positive, with 169,000 more workers added than separated. Sectors which were adding the most employees in November included retail trade and leisure and hospitality; you could add the education and health services sector to that list when discussing those industries which posted the most new job openings.
Overall, these latest JOLTS data do not change the larger storyline that hiring remains a challenge. This is true despite improvements in the unemployment rate. While recent indicators suggest that hiring intentions moving into 2012 are positive, it is also clear that businesses are being cautious in bringing on new workers. With clear signs of stronger growth and fewer uncertainties in the marketplace, this could all change.
Chad Moutray is chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.