New Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that manufacturing hiring was up in December, mirroring other employment data released by the agency. There were 264,000 job openings in the sector in December, up from 242,000 in November. The increase occurred in both the durable and nondurable goods sectors.
In addition, there were 261,000 hires and 226,000 separations in the month. This suggests net hiring of 35,000, an improvement from the 19,000 gain in November. This can be seen in the attached graphic.
For the macroeconomy as a whole, the number of job openings rose from 3,118,000 in November to 3,376,000 in December – an increase of 258,000. The hiring rate is currently 2.5 percent of the labor market, up from 2.3 percent in November. This brings it back to its level in September, right before the falloff in October in labor market activity. Despite the uptick, the hiring rate was little changed in December from November.
Given that these numbers overlap with strong improvements in U.S. employment in December and January, there is little new news here. The manufacturing jobs picture is improving, and yet, overall, hiring remains a challenge. With modest growth in production this year, we will hopefully see increased hiring in the coming months.
Chad Moutray is Chief Economist, National Association of Manufacturers.