New Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show manufacturing job openings declining significantly in April, offsetting the large gain seen in March. Job openings, which rose from 271,000 to 308,000 between February and March, dropped to 246,000 in April. Last month’s increase had led to hopes that the sector was picking up the pace for possible future hiring, but recent weaknesses seem to have brought that back to reality.
On the positive side, net hiring for manufacturing remains positive. There were 255,000 net new hires in April, down slightly from 263,000 in March. Separations were also lower, decreasing from 234,000 to 232,000 for the month. This suggests net hiring of 23,000 in April, below the 29,000 net gain of March.
Numbers for the overall economy mirrored those of the manufacturing sector. The number of job openings declined from 3,741,000 to 3,416,000. This was the lowest level since November. Hiring and separations were also lower.
These numbers show a labor market which has weakened considerably in recent months. Some impacts could be due to seasonal adjustments in the data, but more than likely, economic uncertainties have played a larger role. Worries about Europe and slowness in global growth have had an impact on U.S. employment markets, with overall hiring and job postings declining as a result. Hopefully, this begins to turn around, with production and employment measures higher moving forward.
Chad Moutray is chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.