The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) observed a higher number of job openings in January in the manufacturing sector, according to new Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLTS) data. Manufacturers posted 285,000 new jobs in January, up from 252,000 in December. The bulk of this increase occurred in durable goods industries, with nondurable goods manufacturers’ also upping their job postings slightly.
This is obviously a positive sign of future hiring intentions, but it contrasts somewhat with actual hiring activity in January. Both net hiring and net separations figures dropped in the month. The number of manufacturing hires fell from 269,000 in December to 246,000 in January. December’s figure appears to indicate a rush of hiring before the end of the year, which was not sustained in January. Likewise, separations for the industry dropped from 239,000 to 213,000. These numbers suggest net hiring of 33,000 in January.
Looking at the larger economy, job openings, hirings and separations were all lower in January than December. Growth in manufacturing job openings was one of the bright spots. There were 3,459,000 job openings in January, compared to 3,540,000 in December. Still, the longer-term job openings trend is a positive one, as there were 2,860,000 job openings overall in January 2011. This can also be seen in the attached graphic for the manufacturing sector.
Likewise, the overall job market has improved at the state level, as well. BLS also released state and regional employment information for January showing mostly lower unemployment rates and higher levels of nonfarm employment. The lowest unemployment rate in the U.S. is still in North Dakota at 3.2 percent, with Nevada having the highest at 12.7 percent. The largest monthly improvements in the unemployment rate were found in Mississippi (now 9.9 percent) and Missouri (now 7.5 percent), with each down 0.5 percentage points since December.
Looking at the manufacturing sector, the largest monthly gain occurred in Michigan, up 16,300 workers in January. This reflects recent gains in the motor vehicle sales. On a year-over-year basis, Michigan has added 31,800 manufacturing jobs since January 2011, the most of any state. Other states with large increases in manufacturing employment in the past year include Texas (up 25,900), Ohio (up 17,700), Indiana (up 16,900), Washington (up 16,400), Iowa (up 11,800), South Carolina (up 11,200) and Illinois (up 10,500). These gains speak largely to growth in durable goods production in many of these regions.
Chad Moutray is chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.